I can’t deal with a long, extended process of coming up with characters for a story. I have to do make characters who feel fresh and interesting in the moment–if I have to plan ahead too much, I won’t want to spend time with the character.
I don’t want to have to read a dossier about the character before I read the story* and I don’t want to have to write one, either!
Honestly, my goal in writing stories is to get them as close to the process of reading stories as possible.
So when I start a new story, I develop the character by either a) just writing the story, or b) writing a dramatic summary in the same voice that I would use for the story. Mostly that summary is there so I can work out how the characters relate to each other. I also hate naming characters and use summaries to force me to come up with names.
Plot stuff…well, I have a habit of going completely off the rails, so I usually throw the summary out about a quarter of the way through the story anyway.
As I get older, I come more and more to believe that people are very similar, underneath the circumstances that made them unique.
On the one hand, I feel jaded about people. The same types of people tend to make the same mistakes and feel shocked, I tell you shocked! that things don’t turn out the way they want.
On the other hand, I feel very affectionate toward people. When I meet someone who reminds me of one of my other favorite people, I tend to feel like I’m being reunited with the original person on some level, or an extension of them. “We have met in another life” kind of stuff. It makes me feel very connected.
As an author, though…I feel like a lot of my characters are pretty similar. I mean, that’s just a part of my personality; even though I’m writing characters who aren’t me, they still come from me. Many good authors, even Stephen King, write very similar characters and nobody complains!
At any rate, planning ahead to try to write a character who isn’t like me…still ends up with characters who are kind of like me.
So I might as well wing it and not write a whole big dossier first!
*Although that might be fun if I lied a lot in the dossier. Hmmmmmm.