In the past I've varied in my approaches to character development.
I've tried the 'name and nothing else' method and allowed characters to flourish under my nose. This method, largely used in my short stories, has caused some caricatures, some nutcases and some genuinely interesting folk to emerge from the tips of my fingers. Equally, I've tried a stringent character profile with about fifty headings under advice from a tutor. That novel is the one with an unfinished first draft because I've lost all enthusiasm for the project.
Last year when I attempted NaNo I used a couple of paltry pages of notes, most of them plot and not character related. The draft got finished, yes, but the amount of butchering I've had to do in subsequent drafts has been disheartening. So this year I decided to land somewhere in the middle.
A brief character description.
I don't want to get bogged down again. As my project this year is from seven perspectives it's not hard to envision myself floundering under the weight of character information in a few weeks. The purpose of NaNo is to get a first draft. The rest can come later: I just want to make sure I've got those 50,000 words on paper by the end of November. So, with that in mind, I developed this brief character sketch:
NAME - Shelley Wallace
AGE - 37
OCCUPATION - Cafe Night Manager
FAMILY - Parents retired living in Wales, brother Michael works in London
HOME - Terrace house in the suburbs of the local town, neatly furnished and painted due to her own hard work
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION - Short, average weight, brown curly hair, green eyes, radiant smile, thin nose
CLOTHES - Hides behind uniform, wears jeans and plain tops otherwise
LIKES - Tea, romantic black and white films, cats, eighties girl pop, truffles, biographies
DISLIKES - Indian food, heavy metal music, buses, vodka, pink clothes, vindictive people
GOALS - To get a raise but not promotion, continue to live comfortably
RELATIONSHIP HISTORY - Quite bad, nothing lasting over a year, unable to trust people, goes through the motions of a relationship frequently
ATTRIBUTES - Caring, nurturing, defensive of everyone, nosy, can react angrily when really pushed, committed to her job
NOTES - Likes to look after people, not dim but not excessively intelligent
So that's Shelley. The other six have similar profiles and as a result I know them slightly better than I would if they lurched straight onto the page. Is there more work to be done? Absolutely. I fully expect each and every one of them to surprise me by doing/saying something I hadn't anticipated.
Still, I've got a foundation now. And, as a starting point, something is better than nothing!