I've come across a piece of advice on several occasion that a good way to plan a story when you have a rough idea of the setting is to ask "What kind of interesting things are happening out there?"
I like it. It sounds good. But when I am looking at the world that I have in mind, it's a pretty static image and nothing jumps out immediately. I feel like I have a good idea how things look when everything is normal, but fantasy stories are always about what happens when things are not normal.
Do you have any suggestions how to poke at a world to discover interesting cracks showing up where exciting things might be happening? Any good questions to aks yourself to discover implicit conflicts and tensions?
Sounds like you put world building before plot, before character development.
In my writing, all three must occur like a triple helix. The plot of the story informs the world building and the world building informs the characters and the characters informs the progression of the plot. For example, Flintwood. The plot of the story begins over 100 years before the story begins. This enables me to have a rich history which informs character development, racism, and the causes there of the first conflicts. It might also be wise to have a plot that extends beyond the ending of your novel, at the minimum an idea of a plot, leaving subplot holes unfinished as something that would not be finished, an ongoing problem that becomes or could become the bases of the next plot (one conflict leading into the next, if left unaddressed, it becomes a festering wound that becomes the plot).
Examples of racism is the term "Jinn lover" referencing the Jinn, an alien species whom had tried to enslave the human race in my Flintwood novel. The insult given to a human implies that they love the Jinn, would sell humanity out to them. In my novel it is used once by the protagonist against a bully whom has stolen the protagonist wallet. The use of the word was to enrage the bully, and cause him to make a mistake. The mistake results in unintentional consequences (flipped, landing wrong and breaking a collar bone) that sets into motion plot points in the story as my protagonist is suspended for fighting (really the breaking of the bullies bone). The use of the word also characterizes the young protagonist as angry, and informs his disdain for many of the changes to human society brought by the Jinn. His anger and racism in this regard become character flaws that must be worked on throughout the story. The method of change comes in the form of confronting his inadequacies born from the social-economic oppression he lives under the Peer Caste system, created by those whom lord over the protagonist. By making peace within himself with this caste, he opens the door to making peace with the Jinn. Of course rising tension requires that door to be slammed shut, and plot development such that he arrives at the same destination through a different manner.
Mind you, while I have spent this paragraph explaining this protagonist, he is more a second tier protagonist to another who helps him along the way. A much more complicated character whose importance extends throughout multiple novels.