Write down everything about the character: are they male or female? Young or old? Lively or not? How do they carry themselves through life? Attractive or not?
Focus on their looks, their personality, what their social surroundings are — family and friends, their past history, any quirks they have. Try to avoid cliche characters. Give them traits you would not expect from “such a person”.
You will often hear about characters being three-dimensional. The three dimensions are Physiology, Psychology, and Sociology. To dig up more information on these, people often use a questionnaire sheet. There are many, and below is a short one you can use to get started.
For primary characters, you must flesh them out thoroughly. For secondary and tertiary characters, you don't have to go that far. A one-dimensional character can be okay if they play a small role. For example, if you have a restaurant scene, you don't need to know the waiter's full life story.
You don't have to use all the information dug up through this questionnaire. However, it is a way to dig up interesting details that you can, if you want to, weave into the story, making the characters and world feel more real. It gives the idea that there is a vast world, and the audience only sees a small part.
It's a great way to get to know your character.
Don't get stuck on this part of the process! Eventually, move on to create the character and the world they inhabit.
The three most important features of a character are:
Also, you can come up with many more features about them. For each of the questions below, figure out how it affects the character and why it is important to the story.
Describe details here like their age, gender, height, ethnicity, weight. What is their appearance? And are they handsome? What do you notice first when you see them? Are they strong and fit? Healthy? What type of clothes do they wear and when? Do they have, or have they had illnesses or injuries? What are their physical strengths and weaknesses? Do they have genetic dispositions?
Are they smart, creative, have sound judgment? What is their temperament like, what can make them angry, what is their political leaning, are they introvert or extravert, dominant or submissive in groups? How do they typically deal with problems? What are they good at, and what are they not good at? Which achievement are they the proudest of? Least proud of? What is their ambition in life? In what way do they delude themselves? Are they easily ashamed or embarrassed, and by what? Do they easily feel guilty, and what makes them feel so? What are their moral standards? What do they value most and least? What are their virtues and vices? Their religious beliefs? What is their sense of integrity, and is there something they would be willing to do if no one knew about it? What would the character never do? What secrets do they keep? What is their sexual orientation? What makes them mentally strong or weak?
What were their family and the area they lived like when they grew up? What was their social status? Who was the family comprised of? What did their parents do for a living? What were their parents like? What was their childhood like? Was it a happy home or a troubled one? Who had the most influence on them as a child? Which schools did they go to, and what was their academic performance? How popular was the character in school? What extra-curricular activities did they participate in? What was their first love, and how did that go? What was their first job, and how did that go? Which position do they have now? Are they good at it? Do they enjoy their job? What is their relationship status, and do they have children? What is their home life? How is their social life like? Who are they attracted to? Who are their friends and what are they like, and why are they friends? Who have they distanced from in life, and why? What do they do in their spare time for fun? Are they outgoing, and where do they go out, or do they prefer to stay home? Who are the most significant persons in their life, and what is their relationship with them? What are their possessions, and what would they like to own? What are the greatest or saddest moments in their life? What are the important turning points in their life? What would they like to change about the world?
Now that you designed a character have some fun with it! Drop them into some scenes, and let them tell you what they do, how they respond to things that happen.
Do this with every character in your story. You are also designing an ensemble of characters. Try to make them as different as possible because it makes it easier to tell them apart.