The stories are there first, and they come from my experiences wandering around in the world. They will resonate into bigger things, forces sweeping the planet, themes and archetypes, but I'm not smart enough to have lucid integration of all that in my head as I'm writing.
A whole bunch of agents and editors looked at my stories, and they all said, in effect, 'You're a pretty good writer and you should probably get these published; when you grow up and write a novel, get in touch.'
Writing is a process of discovering. I could never outline a narrative; that just sounds boring. There's no joy of discovery in what you're doing if that's your strategy.
You decide which characters you want and then do the best you can to bring their humanity to the forefront in the context that you place them in - the crises in which you've placed them.
When you meet powerful men or just read about them in the newspapers, you see that they don't have a sense of boundaries.