I’ve published two different book series now, and both of them started with a character.
—A self-help expert on being single
—A girl who goes to spy school
Then I asked the question: “what’s the worst that can happen?”
Your story needs some conflict. Your character needs some mission (literally—in Cammie’s case). And whatever conflict you choose can (and should) stem from that character.
Of course, sometimes the conflict or situation comes first for an author, but even then you still need to go back to character because he/she will be the heart of the story—everything ties to it.
For example, what would Wizard of Oz be like if Dorothy was a street-smart bully?
And can you imagine Lord of the Rings if Aragorn—not Frodo—had been in charge of taking the Ring to Mount Doom?
Those might have been very interesting, well-told stories, but they would have been different stories—all because of character.
Every line of dialogue, every plot element or twist should come from the characters. Get to know them. Go deep inside them. Make them interesting and multi-dimensional.
And then start messing with their comfy little lives.
But that’s another lesson.