All you literary, avant-garde types please avert your eyes. I know you care less about plot than character development. Go about your business.
Every story, especially a novel, must have a problem. The easiest way to accomplish this is to thwart a character from getting what he or she wants. And any character, if drawn properly, wants something. (Because characters should be like real people, right? I certainly have wants.)
In The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, the Time Traveler wants to prove his theory about the 4th dimension.
In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Victor wants to learn the secret of life.
Chief from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey wants to keep hiding.
Even in more "literary" work, the protagonists have desires--love, acceptance, other universal human themes.
The story happens when a character is blocked or thwarted from achieving what he/she wants...or sometimes faces consequences of seeking the object of his/her desire.
The Time Traveler arrives in the future (yay!), but his time machine is stolen, thwarting his return to the present (boo!).
Victor brings the Monster to life, but ugh...dude is ugly. And scary. And lonely. (Um, did I mention vengeful?)
McMurphy punches holes in Chief's defenses and helps him realize there's more to life than hiding--but living life comes with a cost.
In each case, story happens when wants are interferred with.
My latest WIP, a novel (no, not a NaNo novel), my protagonist wants to keep hiding bodies like he's always done, but then a girl moves to town...and he's just not sure anymore. That and the metaphysical consequences of so many unexpected deaths in a small town.
Yeah, that too.
I hope NaNo is going well.