People do things out of motivation created by either some internal force we are fighting within us or by an external force on the outside, such as global politics for example, or both. An “internal force “could be a nagging guilt over something that happened in the past or maybe a chronic obsession which a forbidden love. An external force could be a financial one or perhaps criminal or sociological having to do with society’s injustices.
In Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” the protagonist Jean Valjean is motivated to feed his family but must fight obstacles involving social and political forces working against him, subsequently throwing him deeper into poverty as he also must hide from Inspector Javert as he fights to be free.
In order to grab the reader’s interest and maintain it through the rest of the story, the writer must create high stakes: a personal goal for the protagonist to pursue ( physical survival, a love interest, political power) while fighting for something of value he is threatened to lose ( his life or life of a loved one).
As a reader, I become most affected by stories that involve characters who enlighten society on a broad scale, perhaps teaching us how to be human or how to tolorate those who are different, while engaging us in their personal dramas.
How often do we hear stories in the news involving people we do not personally know, yet we feel touched by their pain or on the other hand, we are awed by their success. Becoming most affected when we observe people face life threatening obstacles, suffer tragic loss or acheive life time goals- despite the relentless threats they may have faced, we are drawn in; discouraged, saddened or enraptured, excited.. somehow emotionally stirred, softened or swayed.
Keeping the protagonists wanting, needing, hoping for something, willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it, will hook the reader just as real life hooks the rest of us standing just outside the perimeters, hopeful to cheer our man on to success, despite the highest stakes.