Okay, bare with me. This post might be a little long. I've recently been learning a lot from Neil Gaiman and his Master Class. There's a section where he talks about making the flow of plot and how to get the reader to keep turning the page. These are the notes that I took of what he said. I didn't quote him on everything, but pretty much everything written here is what he said in his video word for word:
The “What’s Going To Happen” game is the game that you play as a writer, with your readers. This is what keeps them turning the pages. Things they don’t know, things they need to find out - things that they care about. And, coming into a story, it can simply be, “Who are these people? What are they doing? Why should I care?” After a little while, it can get a lot deeper:
“And then what happened?”
These are the most important words there are for a storyteller.
Anything you can do to keep people turning the pages, is legitimate.
The main thing you have to do is care. Because if you don’t care what happened, then nobody else will. You need to imbue that care into your writing.
Because then, any time you move from character to character, or the story hesitates, the question will come from the audience: “And then what happened?”
Do not shy away from conflict. You have to allow the conflict to happen. That is so much of what a plot is.
What Do Your Characters Want?
You have a bunch of blocks when you’re building a story.
What does the voice sound like? What do your characters sound like? Who are they? What do they do? What do they want?
What do the characters want? When you’re building plot, this question is a VERY important one - the one that matters. It’s the only question that opens the door to what you will do next. Because it will dictate what you will do next with the story.
If you get stuck, you can ask yourself what your characters want. It’s like a flashlight: it shines a light on the road ahead.
If you can’t figure out what your plot is when you know your characters: “Just have two of your best characters and have them figure out what they want. And have them want things that are mutually exclusive. And then set them off on their quest.”
Doing this, where only one of them can get what they want - that will give you conflict, that will give you plot.
Asking a character, “What do you want? What do you need?”, and using it as a driver, is one stage below the mechanics of plotting. And it will save your butt over and over if you take that as an important thing. And remember: characters always, for good or for evil, get what they need. They do not get what they want.
What characters want, and what they need, will always be the driving forces of a story.
I suggest taking a look at his Master Class. It's super insightful into the mechanics of stories and what makes them tick, and it's really helped me make my writing a heck of a lot more meaningful.