Tone is everything, isn’t it?
If I say “what’s wrong with you?” in a rude way, it implies both that I think there IS something wrong with you, and that I have an opinion about it!
Yet a different, warmer, more curious intonation might be an expression of care. I can see something's wrong, and I want to know more.
This kinder, gentler way is the stance we must take toward our protagonists. I like to call them heroes, for reasons that will be made clear as these tips progress. Protagonist, main character, hero — look, you know who I mean. Your story is bound to have one.
And whoever that hero is — something’s wrong. Something is drastically, urgently, things-can’t-go-on-like-this wrong.
It might be something obvious (your horrible uncle hates you and makes you live in a cupboard under the stair, oh and you're an orphan too, long story! ) — or more subtle (you don’t actually mind being a furry-toed homebody who only cares about social status and keeping your hobbit-hole tidy, but your true potential is withering on the vine — there’s more to you than you think, Mr. Baggins!).
If your hero didn't urgently need a grand adventure to whisk them out of their (dis)comfort zone and hurl them onto their true life’s path, a story would not come for them. The storytelling gods are thrifty that way.
So ask your hero, storyteller: What’s wrong with you, and your world? Why is this story necessary, now? Why can’t it wait a moment longer?
What BS is your hero hiding behind, what destiny is she ignoring, what outdated coping mechanism is about to collapse, what unprecedented circumstance will topple the shaky house of cards she calls home?
Because that is how stories begin.
TIP: At the moment we meet your central character, there is something unsustainable about her life. What is it? What’s wrong?
Whatever it is, don’t worry — an adventure is coming along to help put things right!