I haven't read any of the comments, just the OP, but I can see exactly what you mean if you have characters that tick the boxes of regular people doing regular things. Or even weird people doing weird things, neither will automatically build to tension and shock and coma-inducing climaxes the country over. I don't have many characters that are totally sane and steer the plot, I usually have them around to be real-world fluff that allow more extravagant people to take centre stage. However, there are many ways to achieve conflict and tension and the thrills that go with each... - Natural disaster.. Pretty self-explanatory. It's out of the hands of any decision-making process, or maybe someone did something that can be perceived as being the reason it happened (shouting loudly on a snow-capped mountain, only to be faced with a potential avalanche). Basically, 'God did it' and that's the only excuse you really need in that situation. - As writers, when we think of a problem we also try to couple it with a solution, which has a tendency to make the initial problem appear too easy to solve. So lets say my kid writes to Santa Claus and asks him for this and that, only he doesnt show me the list, and he wants to be with me when we post it. Maybe I'm smart enough to think "right, ill do another envelope and post that instead, and then be the best dad in the world because my kid thanks me for Santas gifts". But then I send the wrong one! It's christmas time, lots to do, just made a mistake. Easily explained. But now it's in the post box, so I go back and there is the postman driving away! Obviously this is a shit example because you'd make sure your kid wrote it on carbon copy sheets and be laughing all the way until your next bank statement came in. I digress, but I'm saying have little obstacles that make it harder and harder to resolve the conflict. Or throw a fucking volcanic eruption at them and watch them burn. - (okay, I sneaked a peak at what you replied with). So you have a cop who wants to engage a villain, but the MC doesnt want to involve the cops? Maybe he hates cops. Maybe he used to work in a doughnut shop and all these cops kept coming in, being assholes, telling bullshit stories, and generally making his life miserable. Maybe he used to be in jail or he believes cops to be corrupt. I could go on and on, but you've got to create an obstacle that cannot be scaled. Prejudices are usually born of something, whether it is significant or otherwise, if it matters to the character then it'll usually explain itself. My own viewpoint would be not to worry too much about how it will sell, but more in that you should put out a piece of work that reflects you and your experiences. Criticism is there to temper and to reign you in, it isn't there to decide your designs and plans for you. Write what you want, how you want, and listen to people when they give you advice. But if you weigh up their advice and don't think it stands up to the way you want to go about your story, throw their advice in the bin and get back to writing/editing.