I must say that I think that the character is the fount of all fiction. That’s where the conflict comes from, where the plot comes from, where the story comes from. If I feel that something isn’t go, if it doesn’t have it’s own drive, I don’t look at the incidents to try and understand what’s going wrong, I look at the character. In particular, I look at the character’s ambivalence….If a piece for me is not working I will look to see what is this character’s conflict, what is this character’s ambivalence, and is there someway of making that more dramatic, of sharpening that. 

-Gish Jen interviewed at ConnectLiterature