When I was a little kid, I loved playing with paper dolls. I’d cut their outfits out as quickly as possible, all the while thinking about what accent they’d have, what their life was like, what they would say to their friends. I guess that was the beginning of my life as a writer.
I’ve moved on to the adult version of paper dolls. After completing the first draft of my novel, I picked out which actors would play my characters if I had my dream cast. Then I made a note card for each character with their basic information, as well as some notes about their wants, motives, background and how they create tension with the protagonist.
I carry these note cards in my wallet, and whenever I come up with an insight about a particular character or a figure of speech they might use, I write it on the back of the card. Yes, I am stalking my characters.
Here’s a great tip for writers: When working on a scene, I take out the note cards for each of the characters who appear in that scene and place them next to the screen. This really helps me visualize the action, and remember the distinct voices for dialog. And it’s fun!