In speaking with my cousin, who is writing a fiction, I realized some of my methods in approaching my fiction works that would help him. I admonished him: Ask big questions! What do I want the reader to think/feel/experience in this story? When they set the book down, how should they feel/react? Do I want them to love this character or hate them? Or both? Do I want the reader to catch on to a certain part of the plot early on, or could I conceal it for impact value later on?
Another thing I admonished of him was to just ask the questions and let them be. Do not rush to answer them immediately. Let them incubate & let the answers rise up by themselves, whenever, wherever.
Every moment of every day is a learning experience. When you see particular conflicts between people, how do they maneuver the storm? In the clan of people you see every day, how are their characters? These things are always pertinent to your writing. To quote from Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, what we search for in fiction is not so much applications to real life, but the epiphany of truth. We draw on life, the legitimacy of people, their characters and struggles, and in fiction we use these experiences to deliberately craft a moment of truth. You can be as candid as Ayn Rand in presenting your vision. You can present a cloudy vision of truth with no apparent sharp corners and defined dimensions as the whole point [punny, indeed]! You can conceal a tiny bit of beauty amidst battlefields, and the contrast clarifies unparalleled messages.
In writing, and in life (more importantly), we have to ask ourselves big questions. I think we should share our big questions with each other more often. It is always a good practice to think about your life and what you want out of it. Ask big questions! It is always good to share the big questions you have with friends, as such mental intimacy is rare and helps us to think more compassionately of each other and our struggles. Also, in hearing another person's big questions we realize them. If we have never conceptualized that sort of curiosity it becomes aware in us. We learn a new dance move.
I am still working on my Robotchicken dance. The gals dig it.