on Fiction University:
Vague goals are nobody’s friend. They creep into our scenes, make us think our structures (and stories) are solid, but they’re really undermining those stories, especially in the drafting stage. “Stop the bad guy” tells us noting about what will actually transpire in a scene. Neither does “Protect the witness.” How is the protagonist going to do that?
Then there’s the king of the vague goals—“Survive the threat.” As Kristin Lamb hysterically puts it, her goal every day is to not die. Every protagonist in every book has this same goal. What the threat is and how the character survives it is what creates the plot and tells the story.