I had to start by creating a scene where the character does very little dialogue, and the action is given in stage directions.
WOMAN is in office clothes, shrugs on coat. WOMAN walks through double doors of office building to the outside. WOMAN fumbles in pocket for matches and cigarette packet. WOMAN takes a few goes to light cigarette in wind. WOMAN smokes, blowing away from main doors. PHONE rings.
Anyway, you get the idea. So, we have to develop the first idea. Her story progresses. It's bad news, even though we only hear her few words. Then she stands stunned outside. A co-worker walks past, calling her name. Finally she opens the phone again and calls someone.
WOMAN: Hi, Sam...It's about Dad... (CURTAIN)
Anyway, it's an interesting exercise because it makes you visualise very intensely the scene you want to create. This is when I write best, when I can see it or hear it. I wonder, is this just me? Am the only one who needs to have a film or a scene playing in my head for it to feel real? By the time I've worked on a short story, I could probably pick my characters out of a line up in the dark, from behind.
I'm working on a short story idea at the moment, about a character who is represented but isn't actually present. He's the centre of the story, but he's revealed through other people. (I used this for a character sketch ages ago). This time, his estranged daughter is coming to find out about him, and his death, and she is a fresh pair of eyes, with her own agenda (blame him, blame his friends). I'm also enjoying writing the story of an old woman who wants to conceal from the world that she needs help, in case she loses her independence. She's stuck at the bottom of her stairs at the moment, but about to start her survival challenge.