Desire is the currency of storytelling.

The most compelling stories are typically set in motion by unfulfilled yearning . If a character wants something, and they can get it easily because there's nothing in their way, that's not a story.

But when desire faces an unfriendly reality, conflict arises.

There are two sides to this coin of desire: the want, and the need.

The want is the obvious ambition; usually, an external apparent solution to the protagonist's problem.

But good stories demonstrate a fundamental truth: external fixes to internal problems don't work.

Crafty storytellers use want to mask need.  And the best of the best use want against need.

Frodo wants to destroy the ring to save Middle-earth. He wants it so desperately that he rejects Sam's support, believing he is an obstacle. Eventually, he realizes he needs Sam to complete the journey. He needs to trust the good to defeat the evil.

When a character pursues an external desire that not only masks a deeper need, but works against that need, story conflict acquires deeper meaning, stakes are raised, and we can't look away, because needs are universal.

It all comes down to motivation. John August, the screenwriter behind Big Fish, uses one question as a north star for moving his characters forward.

Why is the protagonist doing what they’re doing?

How do we apply this outside of drama?

Think about what your audience says they want. If you can fulfill that apparent desire, you may have some success.

But if you are able to uncover, and satisfy, a deeper need, you'll have their heart.