Let’s skip the part where you make a list of all of your character’s likes and dislikes, quirks and habits. Don’t get me wrong—it isn’t that those things are not important. They do so much to bring your character to life, to make her recognizable and distinct. But you don’t need me for that. And I often find it best to have those elements of character reveal themselves to you as you write and see your characters engage with, and bump up against, their worlds.
I want to look deeper. Today, I want you to access your character’s memory, her history, her entirely subjective experience of her own life.
I want you to identify some defining moments in her life. They can be objectively monumental (a divorce, a death) or they can be only personally so (a shift in understanding, a quiet betrayal, a moment of pure joy).
List around five of them now, and make enough notes about each to create a full picture. You don’t need to write any scenes. (Spoiler: That will come next.) But figure out all the context that you can. Include who was there, when and where it happened, and how it felt.
Tip: Remember that this is all from your character’s perspective. You do not need to worry about the objective truth.