Okay, so we know that characters are kind of necessary for our stories. It doesn’t matter who or what they are. They are what the story revolves around. If you wanted to write a story about a dining room chair you can, though I think it’d be difficult to create an anthropomorphic chair.
My characters are based loosely on people I’ve met in real life, character archetypes I’ve come across in other books and movies, and even a little of me. I have to be careful to keep the characters from becoming too overpowered, since a story where everyone is super human isn’t all that interesting if your antagonist doesn’t fit with them. And with my tendency to downplay antagonists in stories like that…yeah, I’m sure you can see the problems I have from time to time.
One of the things I do is I picture what my characters look like. Sometimes I’ll look up pictures online and try to match them to my characters, but since I tend to alter physical appearances (such as giving them scars, tattoos, etc.) those pictures become obsolete. So I draw the image in my mind. I add and alter things as needed. I’ll also write down the description and adjust it as I need to so it continues to show what the character looks like. I’m a visual person, and the list gives me what I need to see the characters.
I build my character traits in a similar fashion. I look at what I want the character to be and what I (loosely…I’m a pantser after all) want them to do. Then I begin shaping the character’s personality, quirks, flaws, etc. When that’s done, I add that to the character description.
This is where my story starts to take its final shape. I choose where my characters are going to live, and refine them further to match the setting I’ve chosen. I give them families and histories based on their homes, their culture, and their beliefs. Then I fix their point in my story and begin.
My version of world planning tends to be a little haphazard. I end up doing the setting and the characters first, then work on the history of the world and how it shapes the world the characters inhabit. There are times when I have to go back and rearrange things until they fit.