Characterisation: add some mental scarring.
I have written stories, both short and long, without much preliminary research and outlining. But I tend to run into character and plot inconsistencies somewhere along the way. So this time around, I’m trying a more structured approach. My characters get some warm attention before I throw them to the lion that is my evil plot. But they do not only get the spa treatment and the makeover, they also will have to subject themselves to some vicious psychological abuse.
One of the ways to give my characters some depth is to give them some mental scars. Events that happened to them in the past, will influence how they react in the story, just like the way this happens in real life. By spending some effort into coming up with their past wounds, even if not relevant for the story you are now writing, will help you to decide how they will react to the plot twists you throw at them.
Take Jessy, for instance. She’s a reporter in her thirties, so dedicated to her job that she makes no room for a serious relationship in her life. As a child, she was always viewed with disappointment by her parents because she had different ideas to what she wanted to do with her life than they did. As an adult, she met a man who expected her to give more importance to his career than her own. Poor Jessy does not have one mental scar but a whole bunch of scar tissue.
There are many ways to give your character some depth but this is one I use with a certain amount of evil pleasure. Which I guess, says a lot about me. To quiet that nagging feeling of guilt, I have given her a lovely house though.
What do you do to flesh out your character? Do you give them scars? Mannerisms? Do you write down their background? Let me know what works for you.