I take pastel index cards and begin to write: the character's name, age, appearance, mannerisms, motivations, secret fears. When did this person's life freeze? What is the underlying tension? What are their recurrent thoughts? What matters to them? What is in the forefront and background of this person's life? Words mount up. I know this character; I can see them. Not just a story then - something that has a life.
a good place to start.
I think of the trees
on a recent backpacking trip.
What made you grow there?
What made you take on that particular shape?
How did you know the soil
would be hospitable
even in seemingly rocky ground?