The typical advice you get in writing books about how to build characters is to create a detailed dossier about each character. You're supposed to write down everything that you can think of about the character from physical description to foods they like to eat o attitudes about politics. According to these teachers that is the way that you get o know your character.
It certainly isn't a bad way of developing a character. However, it is not he only way. You don't have to make copious notes about your character to get to know
him/her. If that isn't your style, here's a way to develop characters
from the inside out. It requires some quiet time when you won't be
interrupted. So, you might send the kids and hubby/wifey out to a movie
while you do this.
I lie down for this exercise, but that
is dangerous because I sometimes fall asleep. Just be sure you are in a
comfortable position sitting or laying.
Close your eyes and
begin by visualizing your character. Don't try to force anything. Just
let the image come to you. It may be vague at first, but it will get
more clear over time. Then see yourself merging with the character, and
begin to see the world from his/her point of view. At this point you
could open your eyes and look around your room. What would that
character see and think about what s/he sees? Glance at a newspaper or
open a news site on the internet. Where does that character go first?
How does s/he react to things like the color scheme or the layout of the
Try walking like the character, talking, gesturing like
him/her. Again, don't try to force this. Let it happen naturally. You
will feel it if the voice or walk doesn't fit. If so, ask why and then
Let your character within you, think about the other
characters. What are the quick impressions s/he has of them? Why do they
feel that way? What in their background brought that about? But frame
the question from inside the character saying "What happened to me that
made me dislike Christmas?"
Let the memories from this character
come to you? What are favorite ones? Terrifying ones? Sad ones? Again
don't try to force anything, let the character speak to you from inside
This method is great for those of you with a drama background or who like playing "lets pretend" or are kinesthetic learners.
It's certainly not for everyone, but it is a good one for some people.