Creating characters that are believable and capricious all at the same time can require a lot of work. I've started a character journal in order to have my characters available when I need them. I add to their personalities as I think of things and have them on 3x5 cards in a file. I found a list of things to help me round out my characters and I'd like to share it with you.
- Be aware of the four methods of direct character presentation: appearance, speech, action, and thought. The indirect methods are: authorial interpretation and presentation by another character. In other words, introducing the character by the author or another person.
- Reveal the character's conflicts by presenting attributes in at least one of these methods that contrast with attributes you present with the others.
- Focus sharply on how the character looks, on what he or she wears and owns, and on how he or she moves.
- Examine the character's speech to make sure that it does more than convey information. Does it characterize, accomplish exposition, and reveal emotion, intent or change? Does it advance the conflict through "no" dialogue? Speak it aloud: Does it "say"?
- Build action by making your characters discover and decide. Make sure that what happens is action and not mere movement, that is, that is contains the possibility for human change.
- Use your journal to explore and build ideas for characters.
- Know the details of your character's life: what he or she does during every part of the day, thinks about, remembers, wants, likes and dislikes, eats, says, means.
- Know all the influences that go into making your character's type: age, gender, race, nationality, marital status, region, education, religion, profession.
- Know what your character wants, both generally out of life, and specifically in the context of the story. Keeping that desire in mind, "think backward" with the character to decide what he or she would do in any situation presented.
- Identify, heighten, and dramatize consistent inconsistencies. What does your character want that is at odds with whatever else he or she wants? What patterns of thought and behavior work against the primary goal?
- If the character is based on a real model, including yourself, make a dramatic external alteration. Keep the character fresh.
- If the character is imaginary or alien to you, identify a mental or emotional point of contact.
Twelve points from: "Writing Fiction" by Janet Burroway