Wanting a thing

Let's start by talking about wants.

There are very few moments in our lives when we don't want something.

Sometimes we want a physical and tangible thing.

For example, what does Esperanza want in this snippet?

I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn't it. The house on Mango Street isn't it. For the time being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how those things go.

  • She wants a house. 
  • We don't know why, but that's not important right now.

We can divide this snippet into two halves:

  • What you want
  • What you have

That contrast tells us Esperanza is dissatisfied. There's a conflict there somewhere, which gets our interest as readers.

Here are a couple of examples that use the same pattern. What do these characters want?

I had to find some transportation. Ideally a car, but a bus or train would do. My bike wasn't going to cut it. I couldn't ride and carry the goose at the same time, not without some kind of sling.

I had a desk. I had a computer. I had a tiny potted plant and a photo of my boyfriend. But what I wanted was a Kevlar suit and a chainsaw.

We flipped the order in the second example; the pattern works either way.

What's important is the contrast between two physical things:

  • Car and bus vs bike.
  • Desk and computer vs kevlar and chainsaw.
Describing something a character wants vs the thing they have.

So we know characters can want tangible, concrete things they can touch—can they want intangible things too?