I used to listen to a radio call-in show where the host gave advice to listeners, Dear-Abby style. I think now that what drew me to the show was that each call was the setup for a story, the jumping-off point for novelistic daydreams.
Stories are built around problems and
conflicts. A request for advice is a brief statement of a problem or
dilemma. A writer can take such situations and, by following branching
paths of what-ifs, build a whole world that is very different from that
of the person who asked the original question.
I don't recall
ever using an actual advice call as the basis for a story I've written,
but I learned a lot about succinctly stating problems, about identifying
key choices. If your protagonist had to boil down his or her problem
into a simple statement seeking advice from a mentor, what would he or