|All of this is true. Well, not the dress. Or the hair.|
I have always been a character author. This means that I come up with characters and their relationships to each other first, plot second. (Usually the plot is fleshed out by the characters...not the other way around.) First and foremost I am writing about how my characters get through the plot, not what actually happens and how it affects everyone else. I often write about saving the world/universe, but I write it from a very personal level. The entire world/universe may hang in the balance~, but you don't care about Earth surviving as much as you care about so-and-so finally confessing their love to so-and-so...while Earth crumbles in the background. How romantic!
So my novels and stories come from the characters that come to me. Usually when a story starts out for me, all of the main characters arrive at the same time. This includes the way they look, sound, and probably even who they like and don't like amongst the other characters. Very rarely have I come up with a secondary character of my own effort later who ended up being just as important as the initial main characters, although this has definitely happened.
How do I "get to know them"? Well, as I wrote in the comment on the other side of Blogger, my brain is always going. I'm never just NOT thinking about something. But of course there's only so much worry I can allot in one day, so all the other time my brain is in "novel mode". It's really kinda scary and ridiculous, but it's how it's been my entire conscience life so I don't know anything else. When I'm not thinking about the "real" world I'm thinking my novels. And I'm not even always necessarily thinking about plot or logistics (although that's definitely popping up from time to time). Usually I'm thinking about my characters and how they would react in the most mundane of situations.
(warning: incoming "wow, you're sad".)
Tonight after work I went to a local cafe on the way home to get dinner. As I sat there playing my DS (um, Pokemon, of course) and waiting for my food and...being hyper aware of the Creeper Man in the corner staring at me while his girlfriend slept in the seat beside him...my brain, for the most fleeting moment, imagined that two of my characters were in that cafe booth instead and mumbling about Creeper Man. In the span of five seconds these two characters had a dialogue in my brain of what I was thinking: "Ugh, that guy is so creepy, isn't he." "Yes, he's kinda weird. Why is he staring at us?" "Ugh so gross. I wonder which one of us he's staring at?" "Both of us. He's imagining us having sex." "He probably wouldn't if I didn't look like such a dyke." "Hell he's probably wishing he could get his girlfriend there to have a threesome." "Hey, by the way, next time your lesbian friends want to have an orgy, give me more than a two hour warning." "Where the hell did that come from?" "I'm just sayin'." "You're actually not saying anything."
And then my food arrived and all I could think was om nom nom nom.
But in the span of those few seconds I learned a lot about my characters. (Well, I actually knew most of that already about them, but you get my point.) Probably the most valuable thing I learned is that one of them needs a bigger advanced warning for orgies. Duly noted.
I've written before about how I talk to myself all the time to work out dialogue but this is different. This is just flat out pretending. The dialogue thing is done on purpose as part of my writing job. The sitting in a cafe and pretending that my characters are sharing my experience while I omnisciently mess with their feelings just happens naturally. I can't say if this is "normal" at all. But as I said before, it's how my brain has worked since I was about ten, so there.
What about you all? Do you just have a bunch of people living vicariously through you or do you take the more ~normal~ routes of writing up characters sheets and writing out scenes to get to know your characters?
(I'ma go to bed now and go to sleep while thinking up nonsensically boring and mundane scenes with my characters in them. Odds are they'll be trying to sleep too. Man, my life.)