on Fiction University:
There’s a fine line between a series of things that happen and a plot.
Seeing exactly how a novel unfolds in your head is both a blessing and a curse. It’s helpful to know how the story plays out, but it’s also easy to get scope-locked on what you know happens that you forget to include the why or how of it. The protagonist’s actions might make sense on a first glance, but when you ask questions or poke at the plot even a little, it falls apart.
Things happen because they need to happen for the plot to work, not because the characters made them happen. There’s no cause and effect. There’s just effect.
Basically, characters are following instructions, they’re not living their lives and dealing with issues.