Where do you find inspiration for characterization? Does a character come to you fully realized, presenting themselves as if you were meeting for the first time at a party? Do you get snippets of understanding about them that deepen over time? What tools do you use to round out your character’s personality?
From the time I was young, I’ve had a strong interest in astrology. One of my favorite tools to use in writing is determining a character’s astrological work-up (this of course requires more than a passing familiarity with the subject). Once I’ve done that, I can go to my favorite reference book, Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs, and use her insight as a way of rounding out my character’s personality. Yes, the book is dated, but her descriptions are vivid and wonderful and if you see her work the way I do, you’re presented with at least two dozen fully fleshed-out character studies.
Another fun tool is the Meyers-Briggs assessment. For me, this is better in retrospect than when I’m actively trying to create a character, but it gives me as a writer plenty to think about: introvert or extrovert? Sensing or intuition? Thinking or feeling? Judging or perceiving? What a wealth of detail we can bring to the page simply by deciding which of these tendencies are strongest in our characters.
I’ve also been known to use enneagrams to flesh out my characters, but since that’s a tool with which I’m less familiar, I tend not to use it as often (I’m much more at ease with numerology if we’re going by numbers).
There are so many other tools out there to help make characters realistic. What are your favorites? Which ones have I missed? And finally, how many hours have you spent taking online personality quizzes as your character(s)?