Characterization is all a matter of perspective. You have to understand your characters perspective so completely you can make other people understand it. I’ve known a lot of people who just write characters that are shades of themselves or people they know, but I always try to find something new, something interesting. Honestly though, it really doesn’t matter. You can use carbon copies of the last three popes in place of the sisters of fate if it moves your stories along. Come to think of it…
Anyway, one of the big questions about characterization has become a huge ass cliché. “What does the character want?” This is a really great question, but it’s been blown way the hell out of proportion. People in all walks of life have desires and goals. Maybe they don’t label them that way, but they still have them. A lot of new age and pop-psychology has jumped on this question like it’s the holy freaking grail. They sit on their mushrooms surrounded by hookah smoke, (Okay maybe not literally, but it’s close enough to the truth), and ask: “What do –you- want?” Then they lean back and nod sagely, like they’ve just asked the most important question and now it’s up to you to rise to that level of greatness. Unfortunately, the truth is sometimes you just want a freakin’ cheeseburger and if everyone could stop getting in your way that would be great.
The important part to remember is that it’s okay to just want a damn cheeseburger. Some characters, like some people, want it all, fame fortune, recognition, etc, and they are not going to be satisfied without it. But if your character is a pot head, they may think a bag of weed and a trip to Taco Bell makes for a pretty damned good day. Characterization is about how we see the world. The rest of it is just learning how to express that idea in our character’s voice instead of ours.
Me? I’m going to go get some coffee.