"When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters."
It is one of the first questions any writer asks themselves when they are embarking on a new project: "Who are these people?" You suddenly have all these people popping up in your mind demanding to be heard; but who are they? It can be a complicated question with an equally intricate answer.
As regular readers of this blog know, I'm a big fan of preparation. I figure out each of the characters in my plot long before I actually start writing the story. I know when they were born and where they went to school. I know their home situations; I learn about their hopes and dreams and their fears. They become real people, not flat characters on a page. All this work pays off once I start to write because I know each of their voices. I know who's funny or who's uncomfortable. I know who's never really gotten over their first love and who is only interested in creature comforts. I love them all, even the ones who drive me a little nuts.
It's easy to go with stock characters; the warm-hearted barmaid, the shallow social lion, the slightly chubby best friend. But I try to resist the temptation because I would like readers to meet people they've never met before in someone else's book. I try to write about 'why' and that doesn't work with flat characters. I need to write people with all their myriad of quirks or my plot fails.
Even with all my preparation there are always surprises. A scene I was going to write with two characters suddenly has a third one poking his nose through the door saying "I need to be here too!" I discover two characters are far more alike under the skin than I first suspected; or one I thought would be trustworthy is definitely not. There are new discoveries every time I write.
Think honestly about the characters that you are writing. Are they truly real? Are they serving the plot or is the plot serving them? How have they changed by the end of your story? No one is static; events inevitably change us for the better or for the worse. Get to know your characters; your people. It's time well spent.