The third lecture of that first day at VCFA, which tied everything together for me, was by Louise Hawes. She described what she calls the novel's "desire line" - the engine that drives the story, the longing for something. The desire line exactly balances the story arc in reverse, because every reader wants the protagonist's desire to be satisfied at the end of the story.
Asking "what" your character wants is the first important question any writer should ask. Asking "why" they want it is the way to get to their deepest desire.
Now, Louise gave us all something far more memorable with her lecture: she asked us to dig deep (there's that "dark room" again, that "clothesline") and speak to that person we were at that age when we were most vulnerable. Pull that child out and find his or her desire.
First, you could have heard a pin drop in the room, a full room - I'm guessing a hundred people. Then sniffs. Then some of us (yes, I'll confess, I'm one) were openly weeping.
So, once again, that's why I write and that's why I'm attending VCFA, and that's why I want to be the best writer I can: because I want to express those universal longings and dreams, those desires, that bind us together as human, as vulnerable, as unique and yet all the same - I want to express humanity.
Even if we are just a speck in the universe.
Yikes! Heavy thoughts.