No, don’t actually draw character sketches (unless you’re able to). I’m talking about mentally getting to know your characters and fleshing out their personalites on paper.
I think over my writing career, I’ve usually had a good idea who the main characters are. But secondary characters are difficult because so often, a writer doesn’t really truly know who they are inside and out.
Before diving into a novel, I start to make a list of characters and then make notes on who they are. I don’t go overboard. I put a paragraph of information on the character. Name, age, general look, general story (what they do, what their status in life is), some interesting facts.
The more unique, obviously, the better this list can be.
One thing that I haven’t always done but I’m starting to do is to answer this question for every character in a story, whether they’re major or minor: WHAT DO THEY WANT?
Motivation is huge because it reveals so much about a character.
Some characters might just want peace and a nice meal. Others might desperately long for identity. Perhaps others are searching for their missing brother. Maybe others can’t wait to save twenty cents using a coupon.
The longer you work on a brewing story idea, the longer you can spend getting to know these characters. But remember–if you don’t eventually START writing, simply getting to know your characters will be like the Fellowship of the Ring never deciding who’s going to be the ring-bearer and never setting out on the long journey to Mordor.