The art of adding conflict to fiction and motivating your characters has been summed up thusly: “Put your character up a tree and throw rocks at him.” (Or her. Or them. Obviously.)
Upping the stakes for your main character adds dramatic tension to your plot, whether you’re writing a sweet contemporary romance or a spine-tingling thriller about ritual murder. It’s how you keep readers turning the pages.
The problem is, we get attached too our characters, we identify with them, and then we’re not mean enough to them.
If you have this problem in your current WIP, you could do a lot worse than to read all of the Grant County novels Karin Slaughter has written. Read them in order, and watch all of the vile things she does to her characters to destroy them.
I’ve read plenty of books that break my heart. But she rips it out, stomps on it, pours gasoline on it and then sets it on fire.
I mean that in a good way, of course.
Even if you can’t bring yourself to be as cruel as Karin, you should at least read her books to see how it’s done.