When it comes to writing I think that characters are the most important part of the story. A good character can take you out of the problems of your life and gets you lost in theirs. It's important to build real people into your story and follow them on their path even if it takes you away from the plot of your story.
I find that just like no battle plan survives the enemy no outline survives the pen. If you do it right. Once you start writing, if you follow the character instead of the plot than you will find yourself go in the most unexpected paths. A lot of the time you find that the story that the characters need to tell is far different than the one you want to tell and it is by far the most important of the two.
Jonathan Gutheinz vents about everything under the sun.