Delving a little bit deeper into the characters here, just a few more points I wanted to add to the previous character-based entry.
Understand your characters. If you write characters alien to you, they aren't deep enough to hold a reader's interest. They become flat, unchanging, and too shallow for anyone to understand. Make sure that your main characters (at least) contain a part of you, you can relate to, make sure you spend time trying to put yourself into the mind frame of your creation. Flat characters are all right in short stories sometimes, because they're too short to actually develop them properly. But in a novel's case, you have to be able to know who they are.
Remember, there's always a motive. The main motives are love, power, safety, and revenge. Does your hero seek power for himself, to rule in wisdom and justice and the American Way? Or perhaps to set himself up as an evil overlord? (For once, I'd like to see a smart bad guy. They all seem to be the most inept dolts.) Is his (or her) love being held hostage, or does she (or he) demand that the hero accomplish some feat before they wed? Do raiders regularly descend on his village and carry off random people? Give the bad guys motives, too. Simply being evil doesn't cover everything.
Killing off Characters: Don’t do it unless crucial to the plot!! Even though death is natural, Don’t do it for shock value. That’s basically telling us that you didn’t have anything interesting to say. You could akin it to adding cursing into music. If a song is all foul language the general public takes it as the artist not having any originality to express their emotions. With prose, and killing off characters, it's the same, it's letting your reader know, if there is not a solid reason behind it, that you don't have an original way in taking the character away for a while, or out of the story all together, without their death. Definitely don’t do it if you’re telling the story in first person. It leaves the reader confused.
Here's a list of a few things to consider when you are creating your characters (Possibly to add to your Character 'sheets':
- Name (You have 26 letters of the alphabet to work with here and a myriad of possibilities. Don't stick with standard names like Bob, Tom, Dick and Jane. It's BORING)
- Nationality (How many nationalities are there on the planet? find one that fits the character!)
- Parents names/occupations
- Brief description (height, weight, blood type, hair/eye/skin color... prominent features? Scars? Tattoos?)
- Major illnesses in history?
- Major family tragedies?
- Has/had pets? What animals? What names?
- What does the character do for a living?
- Favorite food/music/TV Show/Colors
- Where do they live? How nice a place is it? Where is it?
- Do they have a life goal? if so, what is it? if not, find them one.
- Brief Background Overview.
- ETC . . .
Considering I feel characters are the driving force to any good Novel, I will probably add additional revelations as they come about to me. For now . . .