Life is all about relationships. Throughout our lives we are constantly creating and developing relationships with other people. Once you have a primary character, consider the relationships in their life, particularly friends. Create one or two characters that represent a strong foil for your character.
A foil is someone who contrasts with the primary, with clashing personality traits, but also shares strong common characteristics, creating a possible friend who will challenge the primary character. Their common traits should pull them together, while the contrast will create conflict. Try to add your foil characters to the primary cast, or adapt characters to become each other’s foils.
Consider your characters’ needs, interests, and hobbies. Humans are by nature, social creatures. If one character enjoys chess, cards, or dice, they need other players to play the game. Anyone who hunts, builds, or collects probably has to purchase supplies. This is where minor characters can help primaries seem more real, giving hinting at a life beyond the story.
When building a network pay careful attention to the size of the community and the character’s network. A character who has few friends will be very close to them, but as their circle grows the relationships become more casual. A person who believes in self-reliance will have a smaller circle than someone who is more dependent.
A large part of a character, and their relationships, is their past. In life our past creates who we are today. In fiction the reverse is often more effective. Create a character, then build a past that explains how they came to be who they are. Identify their strongest personality traits their beliefs and passions, and ask why that is so.
Give each character at least one hobby or interest, and one or two small things that they like, and a few they dislike. For example, a person who likes the smell of burnt bread, or can’t stand a comfy bed. Small details like these hint at a past. Over the course of the story you can reveal why rain makes a character edgy, or why they insist on always being the last to enter or exit a room.
Use past experiences to further develop character relationships. Root clashing personality traits in past experiences. At first the two characters don’t know much about each other, so when they clash they make assumptions about the other person. Then, over time, they learn about the other character’s past, forcing them to reevaluate their response.
Writing Different Characters