C… C… Characters starts with C

I read…sometime, somewhere…that one of the way Americans are different from the rest of the world is that we have an unhealthy obsession with what we do for a living. Most of us, it seems, tend to defined who we ware by what we do.
We introduce ourselves, and others, with our occupations. We work an average of about 10 hours a week more than other first world employees and get half, or less, of the paid vacation time. And, we accept this as normal.
So it probably makes sense then that as a writer, one of the first things I do to define a character is figure out what they do. But in my earliest days as a writer (and still to some extent) that starting point often left me floundering for the rest of the information about a character.
Harlequin author Kathie DeNoskey gave me and some writer friends a primer last summer on novel writing that included her character interviews, the sketch she uses to figure out little details about her characters. With questions like “What is your biggest fear?” and “How many siblings do you have?” the worksheet helps define your characters a little better.
But for me, it’s not enough. As I finish final(ish) edits on my work in progress, I’m going back and asking myself silly questions that I should have known before I wrote the book in the first place, like why does Jade love Pad Thai? When did she decide that she loved the scent of jasmine? Does it matter?
Of course the answer to that final question is a mixed bag. It matters because it’s part of who she is. Does it move the story forward?
Well, that’s debatable. But it does take her from stick figure protagonist to something resembling a real character…and that is one of my primary goals.
So when you write, or read, a memorable character, what do you need to know to remember them more than any other character?
What made us scared of Jack Nicholson in The Shining? Why do we love Ash in Army of Darkness?
What makes a character stick with you?
I need hints!
So tell me about your favorite character and what made them real.

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