In the car, Erin and I were talking about writing, and Erin started to make a point by saying:
Erin: You know, I don't want to meet John Updike as much as kick him in the gonads
James: That sounds like a good prize for a literary award!
Erin:: (laughs) I can just see it! Grand Prize: Kick John Updike in the gonads!
Anyway, after we hashed out why John Updike deserved to be kicked in the gonads, Erin made her point: the starting point of a story, says John, is to create a character and spend a lot of time making as much trouble for him or her as possible.
My stories tend to start on ideas; sort of, 'wouldn't it be neat if...', and so on. And while that may also be a perfectly valid way of writing fiction, it tends to place the characters second, and it's my characterization that I most need to improve, at the moment.
Consider the rough draft of Erin's first chapter of her story about Otter. Otter doesn't even speak, but Erin's able to give her as strong as a character as I have for Rosemary. I'm proud of how well I plot. Guess what Erin's strength is.