I choose a strong background that will affect who my character is and how he or she sees life.
For example, if your hero is a former Marine, he had motivation to serve his country. I focus on that. I also focus on his training because that colors how he sees the world, how he reacts when startled, how he sleeps, how he organizes his belongings, how he problem-solves.
If I create a heroine who lost her parents and was shuffled into the foster care system, she will most likely have trust issues, fear of abandonment and, therefore, she will protect her heart.
I like to give my characters life-long passions.
I've written about heroines who are doctors, music therapists, horse lovers. Whatever led them into their profession colors how they think and react. Music was an escape for my heroine who was a music therapist. So I use music imagery in her descriptions and the way she thinks...especially about love. My sleuth is a home stager. From an early age, she enjoyed mixing colors and styles of furniture. She also takes in stray animals and her love for animals and her compassion colors how she treats humans, too! If your hero hikes for a hobby, that face-the wilderness passion will charge his goals and his passion. He might be adventurous in his business dealings.
I create family bonds.
If your hero has sisters, that can affect his reactions to women, his understanding of their motives and fears. If your heroine has brothers, maybe she was a tag-along, or a tomboy in order to earn the respect of her brother and his friends. If your characters" parents have a happy marriage they will look at a relationship as a forever possibility. On the other hand, if parents divorced, that could create a negative rather than positive view of marriage.
Everyone has personality quirks!
We all have idiosyncrasies. Maybe my sleuth likes Beatles music and sings along with their music in her car. Maybe my hero drinks a cup of coffee in the morning as he watches the sunrise. I try to come up with a history for why they have quirks and habits. I like to weave their backstory around the present story so nothing is random.
Speaking of romantic history...
My characters have had former romantic relationships that reveal why the hero or heroine might be afraid of commitment. On the other hand, this past history has also taught my characters something about love and loving. Whatever they learned or felt will fuel the conflict in their romantic relationship now. Romantic history fuels tension and creates impediments to finding a significant other.
What about physical perfection?
A model will have a different view of life than a heroine with a port wine stain of her face. A hero with war injuries will look at himself differently than a man in buff shape. I try to give my characters distinctive physical characteristics--deep tan, long waist, brown hair with blond strands, a scar above a brow.
Creating characters is an awesome experience. I try to use every detail in his or her past to give details in their life now a purpose. I try to create "real" people with hearts, souls, and a mindfulness of who they are. I hope this makes my characters memorable.
©2014 Karen Rose Smith
Karen Rose Smith's mystery website