Put your character through shit.
In Trainspotting Renton doesn’t want to do drugs, but he does. Right from the start he talks about getting off drugs and improving his life. Unfortunately for him, he is not only on drugs, but also in the worst place imaginable… Scotland (sorry, cheap joke that).
Frodo doesn’t want to go to Mordor, but he does. Right from the start he is content with his life in the Shire. Unfortunately for him, the world is changing and he must go to the worst place imaginable… Scotland (sorry, cheap joke that). No, actually he goes to Mordor.
Focus on characters.
Begbie, Tommy, Spud, Sick Boy… none of these are the main character, but we follow their lives as they intersect with Renton. It creates a real world, and an unpredictable world. Real characters could do anything, just like real people.
Aragon, Merry, Pippin… none of these are the main character, but we follow their lives as they intersect with Frodo. It creates a real world blah, blah, blah…
Raise or lower the status of your main character.
Renton went to a private school, he is from a good family and he is mocked for being ‘too smart’. He is of a higher status than his situation, and he wants to change his status (for those in school, consider if he wants to raise or lower his status).
Frodo is of the Shire. He is low status and must rise above what hobbits are believed capable of in order to achieve this goal, while Aragon is a ranger who must rise to accept his role as king of Middle Earth… hmm, the synchronicity fails here.
Ok, so Frodo is low status going high, Renton is high status going low. But the idea is that their status is going to change! Stories where the character experiences some change are always the best (I can’t think of an exception, can you?).
Have I convinced you of that?!… (gosh I hate people who use excessive punctuation marks!!! They mean nothing….,?!)