A writer friend of mine commented to me recently that she has a hard time making the stakes high enough for the characters in her stories. I understood what she meant. I frequently have the same problem. I like my characters and I feel uncomfortable making bad things happen to them.
As I am going through my stories, linking them to one another, I am constantly evaluating whether the conflicts and problems that I present my characters with are high enough stakes to matter. And they have to matter not only to the original character but to succeeding generations as well since what happens in one story reverberates in the others.
If a character suffers from mental illness, or a character divorces or dies, it is easy enough to see how others can be touched by the crisis. But not every story is about life or death. Some stories involve little changes and small developments; the impact on a character's life can seem subtle at first, and then have larger implications later. My job is to make the conflict, the crisis or the problem be important enough to change the trajectory of a character's life, to make it believable, to make it heartfelt, to make it matter.