Sometimes when we take on courses on a topic we love (and think we already know) it isn't so much to learn something new, but rather to be reminded of something we already knew or that should be obvious.
In the course 'How to Think Sideways' on writing a novel (find a link at ink-fever), I am reminded of the importance of knowing your characters before writing their scenes. 'Well Duh', thinks I, only to be faced with my own shortcomings in this area.
I find I have thought through my main characters to the point of being able to predict their reaction in any given situation, but what of the surrounding characters? In the Dog Show Detective I've been satisfied with my building of my 11yr old girl, who upon embarking on Junior Handler dog show competitions also manages to solve mysteries, and I thought I had created her surrounding world well. Not so. I gave her a mother, a significant relationship with her mother, a father and a little brother - oh and of course a clever but naughty dog!
Curious about software for novel writing, I downloaded a trial for Plot Builder and started to play with it. I started with creating characters and managed to fill all sections easily for my heroine. Next I entered the mother. That was when I realised how little I knew about her. I knew her occupation, her family commitment, but by gosh, I didn't even know what she looked like! Another big shortcoming is that I had not thought through any negative aspects to her personality - and I'm pretty sure as part of the human race, we all have undesirable traits. Without that you are just dangling paper dolls around in the narrative and not people.
What have I learned from this? Don't assume you know what you think you know and writing software may be helpful after all.