Here’s a post at Women Writers, Women’s Books: THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
I find this post interesting because the author, Laurie Buchanan, approaches character development so very differently than I do.
Buchanan: Nailing a character’s appearance is vital.
Me: I don’t really have much of a picture of most of my characters. I have literally had editors ask for physical descriptions of the protagonist and realized, after flipping through half a finished manuscript, that I never described the protagonist in any but the vaguest possible terms. I’m questioning your use of the word “vital” here.
Buchanan: The character template is where I also note details about their childhood (good or bad), their parents (or whoever raised them), their siblings, and their childhood friends.
Buchanan: As an author creates characters, it’s essential to ask if they’ve survived trauma, either physical or emotional. For example, are they a survivor of cancer, rape, domestic violence? Do they have PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Do they suffer from depression, an eating disorder, or anxiety? If yes, how does their experience factor into their current life?
Me: No, wait, seriously?
Buchanan: Is the character left or right-handed? Do they smoke? Do they drink? Do they have any addictions? What’s their personality type—introvert, extrovert, or ambivert? Are they opinionated? What’s their political affiliation?
Me: You’ve got to be kidding.
Now, the difference may not be as extreme as the above makes it sound. Perhaps Buchanan lays all this out in a notebook or file and I just have it in my head. I mean, I didn’t have to make notes about, say, Carissa Hammond’s backstory to know that she definitely has issues with past trauma. But … wow. This sounds so mechanical and, I don’t know, so artificial. Doing all this stuff with childhood friends and whether someone is left-handed before the character even appears … why? Are they opinionated? Well, good heavens, you’ll find that out when the character starts talking. Sitting down and deciding that a character is irritable or impatient or relaxed about life or whatever before you even start writing the book and before the character walks on stage just seems so odd.
Thus we once again see that the experience and practice of writing are highly variable.