I have this novel that I've been struggling with for, oh, five years now. It's The Big One. The One Story To Rule Them All. Yeah, I've had my flings (short stories, crappy first drafts, beginnings I've scrapped) but I always seem to come back around to this one.
The other day I decided to read my very first draft, the one I wrote five years ago that is seven chapters long, about 20,000 words, and maybe a fifth of the way finished. There were parts that made me laugh at how awful the writing was, parts that I recognized as my subconscious stealing and using in other works, and parts that made me nod and think 'not bad,' even though it was written when I was a mere fourteen-year-old kid. But the main things I noticed were the characters' motivations, flaws, and personalities that drove the story forward.
Thinking I'd hit the jackpot or had an epiphany (though it turns out this has totally been explained this way before), I drew this. Maybe it doesn't help specifically with the development of this story, but it sure is representative of story structure as a whole. Take a gander, writers. I hope it's helpful. :)
What this diagram tells me is that character is the foundation for any story. With motivation there is conflict. With personality there is voice. And of course, if your characters learn anything or have any purpose at all, there should always be a deeper meaning in the subtext of the story.