Who is your protagonist? Who is your antagonist? Who’s the mentor? The comic relief? Who’s out for revenge? Who just wants to get laid? Who are your characters?
For me, character building is one of the most important things you can do when your just starting out as a writer, or just starting a new story. Outlining a story is one thing, but does the outline fit your characters? How do your characters react in certain situations? What are their limits? What can push them past those limits?
Knowing who your characters are is pivotal to your story. It’s their story. They’re the ones driving it. They’re the ones experiencing the world you’ve created and everything you’re throwing at them.
Sure, you can outline before you even know your first character’s name. It may simply be what works for you. Maybe you develop the character to fit the outline, or maybe you develop the character and tweak the outline where necessary. No matter how you do it, just do it.
Each character that has name, be it the protagonist or some random merchant that gives the protagonist an important bit of information, deserves a backstory. How did that merchant come to be such? How did he know what he tells the protagonist? What is his personality and character? His strengths and weaknesses? What does he look like?
When creating a character, start with the basics of height, age, eye color, hair color, weight, skin color, gender, and sexual orientation. Once you’ve figured this out, look at their childhood, their backstory, then expand on it.
How did their life growing up affect them? What are their strengths and weaknesses because of this backstory? What are their skills and how did they learn them? What is their current lifestyle when the story begins? What are their morals/ values? What is their personality? And most importantly, what is their role in the story?
Sometimes you need to figure out some of this before you start outlining, expecially with the main protagonist and antagonist, but other times you can simply work on it as you work on the outline. As you work on your characters and outline questions may come up that pertain to the world. Don’t forget to take a moment to write down these questions so you can answer them when you start world building. And remember, character bios can be as in depth or as light as you wish. As long as you can work with it and you know your character well enough to write about them like they’re a real person.