Creating believable characters is an interesting topic for me since I'm still not sure I'm actually creating them. :) I wracked my brain all this week trying to figure out how I create the people who fill my stories. I came to a couple conclusions. First, there is no formula for creating believable characters (at least not one I know). Second, everyone creates characters differently. Some will pull people from real life, change their names and voila. Their character is born. Others will meld several real people together. Still others will produce a person purely from imagination.
One thing I have found to be helpful before writing a story or novel is to really understand my characters before I actually begin. I didn't do this with my last novel, and it showed. When I went back and figured out my character's history I was able to write her a lot more effectively. Which isn't to say you have to do this or that to write great fiction.
Some writers enjoy creating long biographies of their characters, answering questions like:
etc., etc., etc. And if that's fun for you to do, I say go for it! Others will sit down with a piece of paper (or their laptop) and in their character's perspective write a journal entry. Or maybe they'll pretend their character is sitting across the table, and they'll interview them, recording it all as they imagine it. (You oughta know by now us writers are a little weird!)
Does it help you to know I haven't figured out yet what works best for me? I'm still discovering every day I write how to create believable characters. What usually happens is I'll have a tiny idea of the type of person I want to create. For example, with the last book I wrote, for years I wanted to write about someone who got to a desperate point in their life where they had nothing but the clothes on their back and maybe a backpack. And maybe they were running from someone or something. I started asking myself questions like, what would bring someone to that point, how would they react, where would they go? So the character was born out of a plot idea. That's usually the way it happens for me.
What I'd love to do is open the floor to all of you. How do you approach creating a character? Or maybe you could tell us how you actually went about creating one in your story. We're all ears!