I was putting together my lesson this week, and decided to share a snippet.
Being mean to my characters was really difficult for me when I first started writing. We like these people we're creating, and we tend to resist making their lives miserable. But, you know what? Sometimes being mean is exactly what it takes. Make their situation so unbearable that you don't know how it will be resolved. If you have trouble planning a solution for a good outcome, so will your character—and your reader will definitely be in suspense.
Think BIG when planning how to make life miserable for your characters.
These problems have to be sustained through the entire book. Many a rejection letter has read, "Not enough conflict to carry the book."
It's not that we have to write stories about extraordinary characters every time, but rather that we must create stories about ordinary people who face extraordinary circumstances. That's what makes readers identify.