A novel is all about character to me. The story is led by the characters. It goes where it goes because of their actions. They must deal with the results of those actions and grow or change accordingly.
If the characters in a novel or a movie do not touch me, if I do not connect, then I am not invested in the movie, no matter how exciting the plot.
And as a writer, the characters tell you where to go. Or they go there of their own will. That is the funnest part of writing; when the characters take over and you are just sitting there as the story zooms off into life.
So I’m developing the characters. You’d think that I know who my characters are, since I have already written one lengthy book about them, but I learned so much about those characters during the writing, that all the thought I had done on them has now changed. Plus, I need to know where they are at the start of all the new action.
I also discovered that I was about to make my main character passive to the whole story, as everyone else took action around her and she was simply swept along on the tide of events. But doing the outlining helped me catch that and turn the main character into an active participant, even if she is doing stupid things that make everything in the story fall apart. Before, it seemed as if I was keeping her safe and keeping her ‘perfect’ and never allowing her to make wrong choices. She’s the youngest character, kind of an Alice in Wonderland kind of girl, so it’s easy to make her at the mercy of the other older characters, but that doesn’t help the story or the character grow.
I may have thrown my poor little girl in front of some bullets, but she’s making the story a lot more interesting.