How about those characters? How do you deal with them and how do you know what they’re going to do in a given situation?
In our effort as writers, we try to create living, breathing characters complete with flaws and strengths and all kinds of idiosyncrasies. Otherwise you end up with Superman-esque personas who get boring really fast.
In my early days I happened across a Character-Development-Questionnaire and liked it a lot. For the most part. The original one (and I can’t even remember where I happened on it—think it was a writing class) was about a dozen or so questions, but that wasn’t nearly detailed enough. So I expanded it to the better part of eighty questions before I was satisfied.
The purpose? I wanted to flesh out my heroes and heroines (and villains!) to the point I know them inside and out so when a situation or obstacle pops up in a story, I’ll know exactly how they’ll react. A prehistoric cat jumps out onto the road and I can tell you what Collin or Samuel or Arkam or Teddy will do–it’s worked pretty well for me.
I think taking a good amount of time just turning a character over in your head accomplishes the same end—by the time you’re done, you just know them like a good friend or sibling or opponent or mentor or lover. That’s where I’m at now: I’ve used it so often nowadays I do the character arithmetic in my head.
However I still like the Questionnaire and I still pull it out if I come across questions about my characters. I will share it with you and feel free to download it at your leisure. Tinker with it, edit it, add to it or throw out stuff—make it your own to make it work for you.
You’ll find it on my “Extra Stuff” page on my site.Enjoy.