There are lots of ways to develop a character. You can base them on a real person. You can start with a cliche or Mary Sue. You can even develop them during the events of the story. I have at one time or another tried several of these with mixed success. Perhaps the most fun I have developing characters is in Role Play Games (RPG).
No, I do not mean bedroom games here (get your head out of the gutter!). I mean sitting down with others, create a character, and play the role in the story like you think your character would. For a lot of people this creates memories of Dungeon and Dragons. For others, it involves campaigns with soldiers and tanks. Still others think of it as spaceships or even an action adventure. These games can be played on computers, on tabletops, through emails and on instant message programs.
No matter how, when or where you play one thing is consistent: Your Character. This is the person (or alien or whatever) you create that will (hopefully) carry you thought the mission.
Unless you are given a character to play, you have to decide what kind of person he or she will be. This can be very detailed or it can be very random. For some it takes a few days and some dice to determine what you want to play. Others, it just takes a few minutes.
Now with my stories, I can throw a character in just about any situation I want, but until I start writing, I don’t know who this person is. RP solves a lot of this by interaction with situations, other characters, and things that are not completely in your control. You find out a lot by interacting with others.
Sometimes this is as simple as a character interview. Other times it is a long drawn out campaign. The point is to give your character a chance to grow so that he or she is a complete person and not just a cardboard cut out.
Some interesting facts I have found out from some of my characters.
Alex was looking for a sister that I didn’t know had disappeared. His parents are spice traders, exotic spices used for alchemy.
Even though Ryen is a nurse, blood makes her nearly sick. She is a ‘were and yes she is almost always contradictory.
One of my favorite characters in the RP is A’tyra, and through playing a year with her, I have found a unique story that has the promise of at least three novels. She is a very complicated girl and does not like anyone poking into her past. In fact, there is more to her past than she thinks, and what she finds might just save the world.
So if you have some trouble with a character, you might grab a friend and have a little adventure, an interview, or just share a chat with someone else’s problematic child. You might find out there is not much to find out, but sometimes you find out much more than you expect.