I do things a bit differently than most other writers. All of my stories start with a character, and usually it’s someone who just pops into my head. It’s not always the main character either. With my Shadow Stalker serial, the whole story started with Kado, who is a supporting character. Kado came along when I was reading The Celestine Prophecy. He just popped into my head, a fully formed character, like I was suddenly remembering someone I had known long ago. Usually I’ll just get an idea about a character and then build on that, but I knew who Kado was right from the start. He was a shamanic stalker, which later became a shadow stalker.
I don’t spend a lot of time doing character profiles. They don’t help me. In fact, I find them limiting. In the early stages I like to just put my character into different scenarios in my head to see what they will do. It helps me get to know them as a real person. The best part is I can do this while I’m cleaning the house. When a story begins unfolding around this character, I know it’s time to move on to the next step.
This is usually when I write out a character profile, but it’s pretty basic. It generally includes their name, gender, age, a simple description and the character’s motivation for the story. I add other things like personality traits, habits, background and a more detailed description as I plan and write the story.
From there I start planning the story, and as I do other characters will start coming to mind. If I don’t have a main character yet, usually it’s the first new character to come to mind while I’m planning, and I do the same basic profile for these characters as well. I use Scrivener, so I create three separate folders for my characters. First is the main characters. I usually have just one, but sometimes I have two. Next is the antagonists, which I may have up to three depending on the story. Then I have a folding for all my supporting characters. Sometimes during the process of writing the story, I may merge two characters into one or delete one altogether depending on whether they are really needed in the story. Having the folders separated like this makes it easier to sort through them.
It’s when I begin planning the individual scenes that the characters really start to take shape. Some of their backgrounds and traits might become more apparent at this part in the process. I can begin developing subplots for some of the characters as well and planning on whether or not they will play a bigger role in future novels if it’s a series. By the time I’m ready to write the story, I usually know my characters pretty well and writing about them just comes naturally.