Knowing your character well allows you to construct believable reactions to conflicts faced in the story. These reactions are what will move your audience through the story.
What is a fully developed character?
There are many types of characters: main characters, supporting characters, opposing characters, minor characters, and extras. The term flat is often used to describe minor characters or extras. As an audience, we don't get to know them very well. They are singular in both function and emotion. Sometimes they are more like props used to move the story forward. Main characters are fully developed. We engage in them because they a have a story complete with a full range of emotion, strengths, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, and faults.
In feature films character development is called a back story. A back story is an extensive biography of the character. It includes everything from physical features, education, professional history, family, relationships, lifestyle, hobbies, sports, successes, failures, past diseases, disorders, strengths, weaknesses, fears, and phobias to a myriad of other traits.
For a short, what you need to know can be limited to a few major traits determined by the following questions:
1. What is your character's ethical perspective? Ethics are the means by which we make decisions. Knowing--or assigning--an ethical baseline to your character will help you keep him consistent in the way that he approaches conflict.
Paul Lester, author of Visual Communication, outlines six ethical baselines:
a. Categorical Imperative. This character would have a strong sense of justice. Right is right and wrong is wrong.2. Is the character dominated by emotion or logic?
b.Utilitarianism. This character believes in the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The focus is on consequences. He would sacrifice one life to save many.
c. Hedonism. This is the pleasure principle. This character just wants to have fun. He is selfish.
d. Golden Mean. This character compromises and negotiates. He will try to find the middle ground to reach a peaceful agreement.
e. Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This character has empathy and compassion.
f. Veil of Ignorance. This character blissfully goes through life wearing rose-colored glasses. Everything is good; everyone is equal.
3. What is his greatest strength?
4. What is his flaw?
A hero will be flawed, but the flaw will be redeemable.5. How does he see himself?
A Villain is fatally flawed. Whatever is flawed will be his downfall.
6. How is he seen by others?
7. What is his biggest secret?
8. What does the character want?
9. How far will the character go to get what he wants?
10. What does the character need to learn?