1. The first thing I like to do is imagine is what he/she looks like. Yep – I want a visual image. I will spend hours going through internet pictures of men, women, children… until I find pictures that best portray the characters of my book. I will print those pictures for my ‘story board.’
2. Define five traits about each character: name, age, appearance (size, eye color, hair color, freckles, big hands, broad/thin, short/tall, tattoos, limp, etc.), relationships (married, divorced, children? Etc.) and personality (introvert, loud/quiet, angry, happy, split-to the world happy/home a monster, etc.)
3. Once your book is finished - go through and read each character’s dialog – are they staying in-character? Would he/she really say that? Are the physical traits correct? Are the character’s actions realistic? Do one character at a time.
4. Rewrite any areas that sound forced or unnatural.
5. Did a character, or maybe several, appear in the beginning but not in the end, or vice versa? Will the reader wonder what happened to them? Are they necessary to your story? If not – delete them – this will tighten your story.
6. Are there any unresolved issues? Did you notice any foreshadowing by a character that hasn’t been carried out or explained by the end? If so – tighten it up and resolve or explain the incident. Again – is this clue necessary to help tell, excite, or make the reader ask ‘is he/she the killer?’ If it isn’t necessary – get rid of it.
Just these simple six items will help you get to know your characters better, will keep your characters true, and will make your story tighter.