When I first started writing, which I did because I was so disgusted with the romance I was reading, I found the heroine’s eye color changed for the third time and the mother-in-law appeared out of nowhere, I knew I could do better than that.
So began the study of character development. I discovered early on, I needed some kind of guide so I came up with a one page list of things like hair color, eyes, build, walk, voice, education. That worked for the first novel, but the more complex my stories, the more I needed to know and remember. That was the key. I discovered I needed to know and remember what had happened to my characters before the book began.
I went then to an interview with the character. I had them tell me what happened to them growing up. But I left out the colors, the walk, the education.
Next was a chart which included all of the above and also the information from the interview. What had happened to them before the novel began. And that developed into what I now use. It is a chart, with a group of first physical characteristic. Eye color, hair, voice, walk, build. Then a section on education and background, where they grew up, how they grew up, education, skills, likes and dislikes. Another section gives me a chance to describe their personality, how they react to other people, they motivation, desires, and their goals. Finally, I end with what changes I want to see develop in my character before the end of the novel. These character descriptions are anywhere from three to five pages (single spaced) and I keep them in a note book with the title of the novel on the outside of the notebook. I develop a chart for each major character in the novel. Secondary and walk on characters are given a much shorter chart, similar to one I started with. If I have to refer back to the book for some reason, (building a series – for example) I have the information available.
I understand ScFi authors do much the same with their world building.
Just this one thought to keep in mind, and I’ll repeat it tomorrow when we wrap this building characters up, if you want to write unforgettable characters, then you better know them well. (as well as you know yourself? Now there is a thought!)