As authors, we create these living/breathing people of multiple layers and quirks which we hope people will feel connected with. We want our audience to see a little of themselves in at least one character we give life to in our writing.
This is why modern suggestions for character creation encourage keeping description to a minimum. The author should try to give enough to get everyone on the same basic page with the character, without outlining every exact detail, letting the audience fill in the rest based on their own perceptions and experiences. Instead of saying of the heroine, “Her hair was the color of buttered rum, and as she moved, you could still see the wavy strands that glistened from the summer sun as they cascaded down her back below her shoulder blades”, the author might ask, is it so important to know exactly the color of the character’s hair and exact measurements. Why is it “buttered rum” colored instead of sandy, chestnut, sorrel, sable, chocolate, or any other? If the writer is trying to build the ideal character, very often different people will have different ideals.
On a similar note, I have made myself smile quite often reading or writing when characters meet someone. “She looked up at his well built six foot four frame.” How often in life can we tell immediately that someone is exactly a certain height? Are all these characters running around with tape measures in their pockets? Plus, perhaps that’s tall to someone, average height to another and short to a third. Using that exact description and not giving the audience any wiggle room can actually limit the impact my character may have. Leaving the description more vague and letting the reader fill in how tall is tall to them, may leave space for much more adaptive characters and a wider audience.
Before this current project, I had been following very organic methods for character creations, but it has lead to a great deal of looking back to make sure that my character has followed their own voice, patterns and descriptors.
As I moved from book one to book two of my series, I realized there needs to be more structure to my process, if it is to maintain itself through three or more books. This is especially true as my characters evolve through these different trials in their lives. So, I am now gearing up to create full character packets on each of my main characters and important/prolonged sub characters to move with me through the books. As it was put to me lately, this makes sure your character is still the same character on page five and page six hundred fifty-five. This promises to be a long process, but I hope well worth it.