Every novel needs good characterization. One key to good characterization is being consistent. What I mean by that is, you shouldn’t have your character with brown eyes in Chapter 1 and blue eyes in Chapter 10, unless the change in eye color really is part of the story. So, how do you keep things consistent with your character? The most direct method is to write it down. Keep a few paragraphs or pages on each character in your book, and list important background information that you can refer to later. That’s the easy part. The harder part is developing a consistent character in terms of the way they act, their mannerisms, the way they react to situations. To do that, you need more than just a list. You need a strong image in your mind of that character to quickly guide you down the path of character development.
One of the most efficient and effective methods I’ve found is to draw on characters that have made strong impressions on me from real life, movies and graphic novels. The novel I just started writing is about a dystopian future where the world is divided into the very rich and the very poor. I needed a strong “sidekick/mentor” character that was an older man, computer savvy and irreverent. So I started going through movie characters in my head. After a lot of thinking, I found one that clicked: it was Beetee from Hunger Games 2. Now, when I write about that character, I have the image of Beetee in my mind and a ready source of inspiration to help me keep that character consistent. Of course, what I’ve found is that a starting image of a character is like a seed: over time that image grows and evolves into something new and different. By the time my novel is published, my character might be very different from where I started. But that’s OK. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.