This post is a thoughtful, well-written snapshot of a key element of any novel. It interested me because it mentions Robert Olen Butler, and I first heard of character yearning from Butler in 1993 at a workshop. When I ask writers what their character wants, it comes directly from that workshop. Butler’s novels, however, are fairly light on external plot and heavy on internal change, so the quotation “plot represents the dynamics of desire” made me go, ehh, partly, but not completely. Yearning drives a character and provides motivation for actions, but plot is more complicated than a character’s sense of yearning.
Yearning or hungering for something–even if the character wasn’t capable of verbalizing their feelings–now that made sense. All those unspoken, perhaps even unacknowledged dreams–the feelings we are only half-conscious of, the flutters we try to ignore–they can change the course of our lives even if we don’t fully understand them.
And Butler crystalized the power of yearning when he said “plot represents the dynamics of desire.” Plot is how the character satisfies their desires.