I've been working on my children's story for the Times / Chicken House competition lately. I thought all had been going OK but then realised a week or so ago that I hadn't done enough character work and didn't really know several of my characters very well at all. I have since compiled a notebook of details about each of them including pictures (torn from catalogues) back story time lines, 'questionnaires' etc. This has been really useful, even though it has inevitably led to massive rewrites
I read A. Writer's blog today and found that she had experienced something similar. I am going to follow her example by interviewing my characters - more in depth than a questionnaire and potentially very useful for finding out things I didn't know about them.
As part of my research / character building I spent part of today (my birthday!) reading the diary that I wrote when I was 14 (my central character is a 12/13 year old girl). According to my closely packed barely legible scribblings I was unashamedly obsessed with boys and music. But my strong friendship with my best mate Vicky is also very evident and there are some references to school work that are quite illuminating:
"Maths homework too hard. Tried for two hours still can't do it. Wrote English essay in bath and while drying hair."
My favourite bit is the much asterisked and exclamation marked week labelled 'The Best Holiday Ever' - a school skiing trip to Italy, which is recorded in furtive hints and half-code that I only half understand - although I think it is clumsily covering up Bacardi drinking and adolescent fumblings. It was enough to trigger some happy memories though and bring a smile to my aged face.
I'm really enjoying this project - just hope I can meet that deadline!