When I first began to write stories, back in elementary school, I would always make up character sketches. I would jot down how old the characters were, how they looked, what their basic personality was. Favorite color, favorite flavor of ice cream, favorite animal, what their parents did, if they had any pets, siblings, or hobbies. It was part of the fun of creating the story.
As I got older I didn't like to do that anymore. It
was too confining. A character is more than a list of traits! A
character is a living, breathing, organic thing! Instead of creating
character sketches, I would get to know my characters as I wrote. I
would let them walk onto the stage and then I'd watch them to see what
they'd do rather than starting out by making all the choices for them.
That method created a few really wonderful characters,
ones that surprised and delighted me, but most of the characters that
sprung up that way were living, breathing, organic balls of mush. They
had no definition. I have one book I wrote, in first person, that I
still haven't decided what the main character's hair and eye color ought
to be. I spent a whole book with him, and I don't know if he's ever had
any pets. It just never came up. But maybe it should have, and it would
have if I'd known from the start.
So now I want to find a way to blend these two methods of
character development. I love the crisp, sharp detail I get from knowing
a list of traits, but I also want the characters to feel natural and to
be able to change and adapt.
How do you create your characters?