It is important to get to know your characters BEFORE you begin writing your novel. The more familiar you are with them, the better you will be able to bring them to life.
One method of developing your character is to do a character interview. You ask your character questions and answer back as if you are that character. This gives you a chance to explore some of their background from their point of view.
It is really a fun exercise. You can pretend to be the police interviewing your bad guy, a therapist interviewing a patient, interview them for a magazine – as if they are a celebrity or maybe about one of their hobbies. It is a technique with lots of room to play and adapt to your specific needs.
Using this type of free flowing encounter can help you generate a lot of information about the character in a short period of time.
I have always done this exercise being both the interviewer and interviewee. But you can always have someone else ask you questions, and you respond as if you are that character. This means your word choice, manner, and attitude must be as if you really were that character. You should think like they do, speak like they do, be that character.
One of the benefits of having someone else involved is you are not stymied by playing both roles. Plus different minds think differently, and you are likely to get totally different material that you wouldn’t come up with on your own.
That said, I still have done this exercise most often by myself. Since I wrote a trilogy, I actually only did it for the first book, Summoned. The key is to ask open-ended questions so your character has to elaborate beyond a simple “yes” or “no.” So instead of asking, “Were you scared when you were kidnapped?” ask “What was going through your head at the moment you were grabbed?”
And I would certainly stay away from the mundane questions about how tall someone is or what their favorite food is. The first one you should already know and the second most likely will not help you in developing your plot or improving the scenes in your novel.
Try to concentrate on questions that will benefit you and help you write the story. There are countless websites that give you list of questions to ask, but I say aim for 10 to 12 quality questions. Stick with questions that ask the what, why, how and who f your character. You are looking for your character’s goals and motivations. (For some good questions to get you started, check out this website.)
Sample questions might include: What is your goal? Why is that your goal? Why can’t you reach your goal? What’s stopping you? What is it that you have never told anyone else?
The character interview can help you get to know your characters on a new level. With it, you can create original, fresh, new characters. And by knowing them better, you can more completely write about them. But the important thing is to have fun with it.