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The Goal. Connected in some sense to conflict, your main character(s) has to want something at the outset. The conflict arises in the character's pursuit of that goal. In a longer story, that goal can change over the course of the story, and often does, but at any one time, the main protagonist should want something.
She might want an answer to a question-this is the motivating goal of most mysteries. He might want to escape from a life-threatening situation. She might want to find love. These are all goals. They don't have to be worth having. In fact, we often find that the things we thought we wanted weren't worth having at all. Be careful what you wish for and all that. But having a goal, rightly or wrongly, drives a good narrative story.
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