Stories are, at their heart, about people. Your story is about one person in particular, and I have no idea who that is. You may have no idea who that is, which I hope is fine because I have no idea who mine is either. It’s usually a he, who falls in love with another he, usually to his own annoyance. If I’m being honest, it’s usually Ianto Jones, because my fanfiction days are still well and truly here, and I miss him terribly.
But what if you haven’t just stolen your character from a work of fiction or someone you know? Where do you start? Well, stealing them is a very good start, in my opinion. They’ll mutate between first draft and final, and if they don’t just call yourself E.L. James. The best bit about stealing characters is that you get to spend thousands and thousands of words with someone you’re already fond of, getting to know them to a depth that you never can just by watching or reading.
For those who want to work from scratch, there’s plenty of options. Character generators on sites like Seventh Sanctum can give you everything from names up to personalities and species descriptions to start from. To get to know them better, you can use all sorts of memes and surveys that are scattered around the internet. Find out which Hogwarts house they’d be in, what type of monster they are in Doctor Who, or what colour they are. There’s also dozens of lists of questions, the ones that used to form the basis of MySpace profiles, that can help to fill in the gaps you never realised your characters had. Her favourite teacher might seem irrelevant to your character’s experiences, but you never know.
Truth be told, it probably is irrelevant, but you did it anyway. And now you have thousands of words of backstory that you can dump in when you feel yourself slowing down or stagnating. You also understand everything that could possibly motivate your character and influence their decision making. They are no longer two dimensional, but are fully fleshed out people who will not stop nagging you until you get their story out of your head.