I have always told myself stories. It helps me fall asleep at night and segues seamlessly into dreams. These stories are the basis for my writing.
To get to know characters better, I write their background. These background stories might never make it into my manuscript – I never intend them to, either. They are my preparation for creating full characters that make emotional sense.
Bea, for instance, in my novel Ashes has a whole backstory that is written in one of my writing journals. I know how well she gets on with her parents. I know about her education. I know when she met her husband and what she was like as a child. None of this is in Ashes but, in a sense, all of it is.
One half of my WIP started as a writing exercise to get to know one of the characters better but I wrote and wrote. It was as though I couldn’t stop. The character just took off as I learnt more and more. I liked what I was writing so much that I changed my novel plan to include a new perspective.
I recommend this. If you don’t already write background stories, give it a go and let me know if it turns out well for you.