The first thing I do is decide what type of story I want to write. If it's romance, I need a hero, a heroine, and conflict that can sustain the length of story the publisher wants. I also like to have at least one or two strong secondary characters who serve as sounding boards for the main characters. I may even make them annoying so readers can see the personalities of the hero and heroine during adversity.
Most of the time I do a brief character interview to learn what motivates them and what types of conflict they've had in the past. Then I pit one person's conflict against the other, and that's how I come up with my story's main conflict. Depending on the length of the book, you're likely to see smaller obstacles that they characters have to deal with along the way.
For women's fiction, I like to show a community of people who have a vested interest in each other. One person takes the lead, but the other characters are extremely important. I want readers to go on the journeys of everyone in the story, so I try to reward them with some level of closure before it's over. In the Class Reunion series, the closure isn't as tightly zipped in the first two stories (Pretty Is as Pretty Does and Bless Her Heart) as it is in the final one (Tickled Pink).
I hope everyone who reads this series can find someone to relate to in the stories. If you've read the books in the Class Reunion series, I would love to know how you would have handled the problems if you'd been in any of the characters' shoes.