So you have the idea for a novel — you’ve got a compelling theme you want to work out, or you’ve got a nifty science-fictional or fantastic conceit that you want to play with, or you’ve got the outline for a marvelously well-fitted and dovetailed plot — and now you need characters to fill it. Unfortunately, all you’ve got so far is a list, if you’re lucky, of names that you think might work.
It’s time to get acquainted.
There are a lot of ways to get to know your characters. None of them work for everybody, because writers (and characters) are persnickety like that. But there’s a chance that one of them may work for you.
Some writers fill out detailed character questionnaires for all their characters. (There are lots of these available on the internet. Just google on “character questionnaire” and there you go.)
Some writers have their important characters write letters to them, or to each other, or keep a diary.
Some writers make musical playlists for their characters. Others scour the internet and other resources for visual references for their characters’ physical appearance, clothing, and home decor.
Some writers draw up astrological charts for their characters, or do tarot readings for them. (This approach, oddly enough, can work just fine even for writers who think that astrology and the tarot are pure hokum. It gives the writer a way to think about the characters in symbolic terms.)
As always, there isn’t a right way to do this. Whatever works, works.