With all characters, major and minor, an author should think of them as real people. To do this, some writers open a card or computer file on each one, listing their personal characteristics - in great detail for the major characters, less detail for the minor ones.
Another way to develop a "character profile" for them is to conduct interviews. Create a questionnaire and role play. It is fun if you have someone you could work with, a person to ask you the questions while allowing the person to improvise too. Give a free rein to your imagination. Record the results.
Some sample questions:
- How old are you?
- Married? Divorced? Children?
Do you have a career?
What was your family situation when growing up?
What is your level of education?
Did you do well in your studies? If not, why?
What makes you angry?
What do you care about most?
What event was most influential in your life?
What book was most influential in your life?
What are your ambitions?
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
Much of this information will not find its way into the novel but it will help you know your characters thoroughly and your will be less likely to have them speak or act out of character.
Some successful authors build characters in their mind and give the sketchiest description. letting readers build their own images. Others give lengthy descriptions. Adopt whatever strategy suits your method of working, but if you prefer the detailed description, make sure it doesn't sound like a missing person's report.
Next time we'll look at Archetype characters.