What's the best way to develop characters for a fantasy story?
Get to Know your Characters
Good to see a question on writing.
Sorry to break it to you, but there is no best way. Different things work for different people, so look at all the responses and try them all, its your best shot.
I've heard a lot of people say that the best way is to make a character sheet for each character, make a background, and make it all perfect and written well. The average want is to have about five pages on each character of background and traits. Things that might become useful for you as you continue writing your story.
Personally I would get so wrapped up in writing the background, I would forget what I was trying to acomplish in the story! I'd end up with a twenty page background on a character and wanting very much to turn that into it's own book.
There's also the character web idea, which is great if you already have an outline of what your writing. You draw out a web of the characters and then on each connecting line you write the way that these characters are involved, be in through background or current affairs that you have planned out through the book.
Great if your organized!
Personally, I lay back and loose myself in my head. Sounds silly, and crazy, but I let the characters speak to me. I let them tell me who they are and what they did before ending up in this weird little world that is what I've written. After that nice little talk I go and write down the conversation. Who knows, you might even end up putting that exact conversation in a book.
I know I sound crazy saying that, speaking to your characters, but I know that I'm no the only one that says things like this. Your characters should be real to you, tangible. You should be able to feel them in your heart, or else you can't expect your readers to feel them. If the character is really going to work, no amount of writing the step by step lives of them are going to help you. Probably just confuse you and make the story a little more cut and dry.
You need to explore them in your mind before you put them on paper. After that, when you're writing, it just poors from you. Pages of dialogue and interaction and story line and character development, without you having to wonder how its going to work out. You might be surprised on what you type. You might have had a whole different idea on where you wanted the story to go, but one of your characters decided he didn't want to die just then.
So, grab some coffee or coa-coa and lay back in your favorite spot in your house. Your couch, bed, wherever. Let them tell you their stories and give yourself a chance to tell it.