Gretchin Lair & Sven Bonnichsen have an interesting blog with some great thoughts on story writing/development. Definitely need to do some mining over there
this ones from January 29, 2009
7) Conflict is over physical objects of symbolic significance
Every scene is structured around a conflict. Characters seldom address conflict openly. Meaning is invested into objects, which the characters battle over. (Every scene has a "mcguffin.") Understand the deep yearnings of your story people -- but then look for how it's expressed in terms of props or even people that they want to possess.