Any quick tips for plot and character development?

Dear Literary Ladies.
It's always fascinating to discover how those of you who succeeded so brilliantly went about the basics of the practice of writing. Can you share some quick insights on how you developed plots and characters?

My methods of work are very simple & soon told. My head is my study, & there I keep the various plans of stories for years some times, letting them grow as they will till I am ready to put them on paper. Then it is quick work, as chapters go down word for word as they stand in my mind . . . I never copy, since I find by experience that the work I spend the least time upon is best liked by critics & readers.

While a story is under way I lie in it, see the people, more plainly than the real ones, round me, hear them talk, & am much interested, surprised, or provoked at their actions, for I seem to have no power to rule them, & can simply record their experiences & performances.

— Louisa May Alcott, from a letter, 1887


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Wouldn't you love to get advice from  classic women authors on writing and the writer's life? Here I fancifully pose the questions, and the Literary Ladies answer in their own words.

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