What’s that saying—everything done has been under the sun? Under the sun everything has been done? There’s nothing new that hasn’t been done under the sun? You know what I mean. There is no plot, not one “thing being done” that is ever going to be entirely new. Every genre has been created; every plot has been done more or less infinity times.
And this is exactly why characters are the most important part of any story. So don’t ignore them. Every. Character. Matters. Not just your protagonist. Your protagonist can only be as colored and fresh as she/he deserves to be in the face of other unique characters. Placing a single 3-dimensional, fleshed out character in a world of tropes and flat characters isn’t good writing. That one character will simply knock everyone else out of her/his path and you are left with no more a lasting impression than your basic pulp fiction and genre writing.
Obviously, these types of stories can be fun to read. They are easy and engaging at times. But they aren’t lasting. To achieve literary fiction, something that should have a long-term effect on its readers, one must move beyond the broad brushstrokes of most of the characters in one’s story. Yes, a few flat characters here and there can help to break tension in story and are useful at times for various reasons—but you must always have a balance. Too many flat characters and your narrative falls apart, the reader is left feeling like she’s been here before, which is never good.
How to do this…how to give your characters depth and enough of a different, unique voice so as to propel a narrative is, of course, a whole other ballgame. But if you give a little bit of yourself to each of them you are probably headed in the right direction. Don’t forget, your presence under the sun is new. If that is expressed in your writing, through your characters, it doesn’t matter the plot—there will be something worth reading when you are done.