There are as many ways to build a character as there are stars in the sky. In fact, there are so many books and blogs out there giving you detailed lists of do's and dont's it can be a bit overwhelming. I'm a literal-minded person. When you say something is green I see green, not olive green. I may be an artist but when it comes to the mechanics of a thing, I tend to need it spelled out in a simple and direct manner.
Then take it exactly as I read it.
So how do I go about building my characters? The easiest way for me, and to appease both the logical and creative sides of my noggin, is pulling up a word document and putting the basic frame together. These are:
Appearance (height,build, hair and eye color.):
Antagonist or Protagonist.
When I'm satisfied with my foundation, I look at photos for the character to go with my bare bones. I use Google or Pinterest to find someone who resembles the outward look I'm after. I do this for all the key characters. Now it's time to build on the frame work I've begun and add the following questions to their page.
Where were they born, Accent?:
Body Quirks (eye twitch etc.):
Quote or pet saying (for one of my characters is,"kill them all and let God sort them out."):
This layer starts to bring out the unique personality of each of your characters, laying the foundation for a real three-dimensional person. These four "tells" not only shape the person, but can give your story plot a deeper layer bringing out hidden points, which may have been overlooked in the overall development of your plot. Now, you are ready for the fleshing out part of each character. This plays an integral part in how your story will develop and many times has changed my overall concept giving my story a more cohesive and layered plot. The reactions of the characters become plausible and can be easier for the reader to relate to. Remember you want to have your characters stay with the reader and for me, this is what helps to make that happen.
Now you are ready for the most important part of your character development. Place on each character sheet the following:
A small bio of character:
What is his/her internal conflict at the beginning?:
What is his/her external conflict at the beginning?:
What lesson must he/she learn by the end of the story?:
When you have answered these questions, you can keep their information in a file with your book in progress. I also print them out and tape them up on the wall where I can have fast access to them while writing. If you write a series where these characters make an appearance you may want to hold on to them as a quick reference so it keeps continuity going in your series. This also helps you to keep facts straight about them throughout the book. Nothing is worse than having the hero change eye color during the story, or react/do something which your character would never do. This keeps them real.
It may seem like a lot to put down, but with just a little preparation before you start in can save you from writing yourself in a corner and worse, fight with a scene because it is against your character's innate traits to do what you wish them to do. Saving you more rewrites in the end.
I hope you will find this helpful to you as you build your story. I know many pansters (people who write by the seat of their pants.) who benefited from having a small amount of preparation before delving into their story. Explore and try new ideas, keep an open mind to different techniques since they may just make the work easier and free your muse to soar.