Every character should want something, even if it’s only a glass of water.
There are the big wants, the ones that are the spine of the story, be it love, family, justice, revenge, etc.–and there are the smaller ones (ie, the drink of water) that drive the scenes and the characters toward the big want. Which is why when one of my scenes stalls (or my plot as a whole) I will very often look at what my characters want*–only to discover they either don’t know or don’t want anything!Huh?
Now, let’s be honest: everybody wants something. Even the most indecisive, weak characters have to want something. Otherwise, there is no journey for the reader. Why should we follow a character if they want for nothing? There’s nowhere to go, nowhere for them to take us. Even if all your character wants is to buy a stamp, we can care and we can follow. But without a mission, a desire, however small, your reader will surely get off at the next stop and search out a train that has an actual destination. Who wouldn’t, right?
So does your character know what he or she wants for Christmas?
*Sometimes I will go through my whole manuscript and identify the wants in every scene and make sure there is one (of course, there will usually be as many wants as you have characters in that scene, even if some of the wants aren’t on display…)