What should you know about your characters before you begin? How well should you know their backstory? What should you plan out? It really depends on what kind of writer you are, but many people need to have a lot of details planned out before they begin. If you want to have complete control over the direction or your novel, consider spending a lot of time on character development.
You should have general idea of where your character wants to go.
Meaning—you should know your character’s motivation and what their goals are. Understanding what your character wants and needs is important. Even if the character is unsure of their future, we need to know what they plan to do. They need to want something.
You should know why your characters are the way they are.
You need to know about their past if you want to write about how they are currently. If a character is mean and nasty, usually there’s a reason why they are that way. You don’t have to tell your readers right off the bat, but it can be exposed slowly over the course of your novel. This goes with villains needing motive. Most people aren’t just evil because they feel like being evil. They usually think they’re the hero.
You need to understand your characters relationships to each other.
How will they meet? How do they already know each other? How will their relationships grow? What are the events that will tie your characters together? It’s important that you know how your characters will interact and support each other.
It’s important that you know how your characters will interact with the world they live in.
Does the world you created have an impact on their actions and where they’re going? Does it hinder them in some way? Locations should have an impact on the action and how your character will reach his or her goals. Take some time to plan it out.
Names, ages, what they look like, etc. is usually information you should know before you begin.
I think you should know what your character looks like, so you can have a clear picture in your mind. Your readers won’t know who your character is unless you do. Obviously physical traits aren’t the most important thing about your story, but we all like to picture who we read about. Readers will come up with their own interpretations, but they need a starting point.
You don’t need to know everything about your characters before you begin because some things you’ll learn along the way. Not having everything planned out shouldn’t be an excuse not to start. Knowing your main characters, the plot, and who your main characters will meet along the way is a good start. Other stuff you can work on as you’re writing.