Character Development: Who are these people, and how did they get in my head?
Characters come to writers in many different ways. Some writers have a general idea of who their characters are before they start writing, while others, like me, usually know who one or two characters will be, and the others make themselves known as the story progresses—showing themselves as forces to be reckoned with that cannot be ignored. It doesn’t matter when during the writing process you develop your characters, what matters is that they are fully developed.
Readers want to get to know your characters, to love or hate them, feel their pain, and delight in their joy. In order to create that bond, they have to know more than what color hair and eyes the characters have or what clothing they wear. Characters should have backgrounds, hopes, secrets, flaws, families, and goals. The more three dimensional your characters are, the more believable they will be.
When developing characters, try to involve all the senses. Does your character smell funny, pretty, gross? Is their skin soft as a lamb’s ear or rough as sand paper? Is their voice annoyingly nasal or is it raspy, sending your stomach into spirals every time you hear them speak?
I keep notes about my characters detailing their looks, backgrounds, hopes for the future, where I think they’re headed in the story (which changes along the way), their style, and their quirks. No one wants to read about perfect characters—people aren’t perfect. So dig deep when you create your characters and look for, and expose, the flaws.