Stress out your characters.
|I NEED A VACATION!|
Your main character should be yelling, "I need a vacation!"
Think of Harry Potter (because it's just a freaking awesome example of everything). He felt some stress from homework and exams and starting at a new (magic!) school. Add in Quidditch, which his dad was apparently amazing at, and everyone expected him to be amazing, too. There were budding friendships conflicted by Ron and Hermione's love/hate vibe. And meanwhile, everybody knew who he was and either idolized him from babyhood or hated his guts before he even said hello.
Worst of all, nobody knew if the murderer who killed his parents and a bunch of other people was really dead. Most people seemed to think he wasn't. Then partway through the book, he gets the news that Voldemort is coming after him, the 11-year-old who somehow made him disappear.
Yeah, that eleven-year-old knew stress. Over seven books, it just gets worse until in the fifth book readers started to complain that Harry was impossible to live with. Well yeah! Dude was 15 and going through hell!
But even though it would have made a delightful, fun book if Harry's only stresses were new magic school, new magic sports team, new magic friends, it wouldn't be the epic story we're all familiar with.
So when you're writing, don't shy away from the stresses you usually shy away from in your personal life. Nobody wants to have the level of stress Harry Potter had at age 11. But we all want to read about him overcoming those stresses. That's what fiction is all about.
Is your main character past due on his mortgage and stuck in a salary freeze with hospital bills rolling in? That's great, but now you need to set some loan sharks after him and his wife.
Ramp up the stakes. Just when they think they've got it figured out, change the rules.
...Until your character really does need a vacation. And then, when they've survived the worst you can throw at them, for pete's sake, give them that vacation! :)
This Writing Lesson brought to you by Sprouts apple cinnamon granola and six hours of sleep.
See Lesson Number 1
Lesson Number 2