Every writer has their own methods for adding depth to their characters. I’m no different, so I thought I’d outline how I do it.
First, I’m not afraid to use stock characters. That’s people I use more than once, or several times in my case and usually under different names. My attractive twenty-five year old dark haired, green eyed female who appears in a lot of my work tends to be the same person, whether it’s Goewin in my historical fantasy ‘The Footholder’s Tale’, set centuries ago, or Kerry-Jane who appears in some of my contemporary erotica, and who made the supporting cast in ‘The Door into War.’ Using the same person in key roles means they hit the ground running because I know their personality and how they’ll react to any situation.
I also reuse some minor characters. Max, a senior professor, has been a mentor for younger academics in a few stories, such as ‘The Wood’ and ‘The Door into War.’ I also use pictures of people to help shape them. When searching for a picture I have a good idea of what I’m looking for, but seeing someone can help focus or add a detail that I’d not thought of. For example, a light scar which begs to be a remnant of a past adventure, or simply a habit of chewing a stalk of grass to add a bit of quirkiness.
I also write brief biographies. I used to complete lengthy character sheets for each key person. That was only semi-useful; it took a long time and was often counter-productive because I found it difficult to remember who was who, and I sometimes completely forgot something key amid the unimportant detail. Now I write a few paragraphs for each person alongside a photograph. The biography has the obvious like age, appearance and personality traits. I also include things like their reaction to key events they’re involved in, other characters they particularly like or dislike (and why) and what in the novel motivates them.
Next time you read one of my books look out for my dark haired heroine clasping some kind of pendant for reassurance. That might be a carved disc of Celtic whorls and spirals if she lives in ancient times, or maybe a locket if she’s from the twenty-first century.