It’s pretty obvious that one of the central components to a story is the conflict.
It doesn’t matter what the conflict is: fighting the Dark Lord, winning the beef cake, or keeping the world from losing its Twinkies.
There just has to be a problem for the protagonist to solve.
I am good at coming up with conflict.
My characters suffer horribly at my hands.
The problem with getting your characters into terrible situations, however, is that, eventually, you have to get them out.
Sure, it’s easy to say the character needs to overthrow a corrupt government and ward off an alien incursion, but how would they go about doing that? Where would they even begin? Especially when these people have no military training or exemplary fighting skills?
I expect them to have a clue what to do when even I wouldn’t know how to act in these situations.
There they are, strapped to a chair with a bomb that’s set to go off at any moment. They rock their chair from side to side desperately before turning to me in a last-ditch effort to save themselves.
“Writer!” they scream, “what do I do?!”
Eh, I’ll get back to you when the answer comes to me during a 6 a.m. shower. You can wait that long, can’t you?
On the bright side, maybe if the solution is a surprise to me it’ll be a surprise to the reader as well. Or perhaps I’m just playing one long game of mental hide-and-seek with myself. Only time will tell.