WriteOnCon (August 10 - 12. You DO know about WriteOnCon, don't you?)
Meanwhile, let's talk about gemstones and jewelry for a moment, shall we?
My wife is a goldsmith and a jeweler. One day each year, in the late winter months, she takes out all of her gemstones and spends a day with them. She will arrange them in various combinations, moving them around and staring at them for long periods of time.
We refer to this as her "playing with her stones."
I've come to appreciate the time she spends like this, designing her pieces. By the end of the day she has a dozen or new designs sketched out, some on paper, others just in her head. She saves the separate sets of stones in their own plastic cases and then can't wait to get started making each piece.
When it comes to writing, I'm a character-driven writer. I start with a character who sparks my interest and explore what makes that character so interesting. I'll spend time with that character, talking to them and letting them talk through me. (allowing them to become some of The Voices In My Head)
Sometimes, when I'm talking with a character I'll find out what they do that's so interesting (or trying not to do) or their particular circumstances. If not, I start dropping them in absurd, difficult situations and seeing what they do. This not only shows me how they might react to different events, but also gives me some ideas on what problems would make for an engaging plot to feature them in.
When it comes down to it, I'm doing much the same thing with my characters that my wife does when she plays with her stones. My characters may sparkle in the sunlight* but they are being taken out and examined, put into different settings and contrasted with other characters to discover how they might best be put on display.
So play with your characters! They should be fun to work with--and they're certainly cheaper per karat than gemstones.
*No, this is not a Twilight reference. This is a faceted gemstone reference. Who ever heard of a sparkling vampire? They're blood-sucking demons, not Champagne. Geez...