Start with an inciting incident – this can be an arrival, news, a birth or death, a change of job, relocation. It can be anything that throws the characters in the story off balance and forces them to react in a world or a situation that is unfamiliar to them.

The main character must overcome trials and difficulties to reach his goals or in spite of his goals. Perhaps his long term goals conflict with his short term goals. Perhaps his goals conflict with someone else’s goals – someone he loves.

Your main character (protagonist) needs an antagonist, an enemy of some sort. This antagonist needs to be strong, very strong. If the conflict is easy there’s very little interest. The antagonist can be a person, not necessarily a bed person but someone who is working hard towards very different goals.

The antagonist can be impersonal – a mighty river that must be crossed, a high mountain, illness, unforeseen circumstances. but they are BIG problems, issues or dilemmas. The outcome is very much in doubt. Things looking very black. Character is only as good as his antagonist makes him

The protagonist will face some losses – try three times before he gets the measure of success you are willing to give him.

Try not to pit good against evil, life is seldom that simple. Instead think about good vs good, goals vs goals

Show the emotion, the struggles and the personal growth of your protagonist. Let the antagonist bring out the best and the worst in him as he struggles towards a positive (well at least partly positive) conclusion.