“All plot comes from the character’s trying to get something, to achieve something, wanting, desiring, longing.” -- Robert Olen Butler in From Where You Dream.And it’s important to let the reader in on what that is early on, IMHO.
I used to think this needed to happen very early in the story--the first paragraph for a short story, the first or second page for a novel. I’ve mellowed on that a bit. I read a flash story last week that waited until the third paragraph to show the reader what the character desired. In this case, it felt right. Still, all of my stories show the reader what the character’s after by the end of the first paragraph. I don’t want to give the reader the opportunity to decide to move on to someone else’s tale.