OK. I’ve got an idea, so it’s time to go on to getting the characters. I tend to write stories that are character driven, so this step is important.
I need to understand my characters in order to write them, and I often find that in doing a character interview or profile, I end up with important plot points or events as well. There are no doubt lots of books out there that will help with character, but the one I found really useful was Write Away by Elizabeth George. She has a list of character aspects that she uses as a guide, and gives an example of how she uses it.
Anyhow, this step is an essential part of my writing process. Above all else, I need to know what the character wants in the book and who/what is working against them. I also need to know why they want it – what psychological factors are driving them. You can see how this leads to plot.
I am also interested in psychology, and read about it / watch documentaries about it often. Biographies are also helpful here, particularly if they have that psychological analysis slant. This is what allows my characters to ‘drive themselves’, so to speak. I’ll start writing thinking they’re going in one direction, but next thing you know, they take me in another. If you’ve done the work to understand them and keep that in mind when you’re writing them, it really can be that effortless. The story almost writes itself, at least for a few pages.