I love the expression “the hole in the soul”.
To some writers it might have become a bit of a cliché. It means the dreadful lack or need that your protagonist is always trying to remedy. Often it comes about because of his previous life experience – the search for his father he never knew, his need for love because of his emotionally distant mother.
We identify with him because we all need love. We may not be that desperate for it ourselves, but we feel the pain. We understand. We connect and empathize.
The hole in the soul informs the whole novel or story. It is the perspective that the protagonist is stuck with. All he does is predicated on that need. He can deny it, try to ignore it or escape it, but it is still there, pushing him and prodding him onwards.
The hole in the soul is what forces him to take dramatic action, make enormous mistakes, drive your plot. It relates closely to the theme of your story.
The hole in the soul is consistent throughout. Yes, you can take a break from it in some scenes but it is always there, underlying, even if it is dormant for a moment.
The hole in the soul drives onward not just the story of the protagonist, but it is in some way mirrored in other characters in this story and in their sub-plots. Somehow they too are searching for love, albeit in a different way. They may not be searching for a life partner – they might adopt a puppy or struggle with teenagers they try to love but who drive them crazy.
Sometimes the antagonist might suffer from the same or similar hole in the soul and be seeking the same goal as the protagonist. Instant conflict – they can’t both have it. they can meet in conflict time after time as both come up with new strategies to solve that deep yearning.
While your protagonist will act overtly to meet this deep need he will also reveal its effects in subtle ways. Perhaps his body language or his choice of words takes over and are not quite appropriate to the scene or situation. This could lead to additional conflict and to people misjudging him.
As you develop the story be aware that the cause of this deep need must be clearly and vividly delineated so the reader accepts it as the primary motivating factor. You don’t have to tell them this upfront. Reveal it gradually so the reader gets a sense of discovery, rather than having it spoon-fed to her.
The development of the protagonist throughout the story arc shows his growing ability to accept and live with – even use – this hole in his soul. It’s a classic theme. Done well, it can make your story a winner!