before you write the first word.
I was advised at Breadloaf Writer's Conference by a famous writer that I should know my characters very well indeed. That I should know what he/she ate for breakfast and what their closets look like.
Now Robert Boswell, in his THE HALF-KNOWN WORLD: On Writing Fiction suggests something very different.
"The listing of characteristics in advance of real narrative exploration tends to cut a character off at the knees. Such a character may be complicated but is rarely complex. Moreover, such characters tend to become narrower as the narrative progresses."
This resonates with me. The work of Alfred Hitchcock, who planned every scene of a movie before he started shooting, is a good example. Although his work is interesting for the exciting plots, he rarely created an compelling character. And when he did, say in Rear Window, the character bled through from the original work. Movies are not the same as fiction, of course. The actor himself contributes to the process as well. But you get the idea.
What do you think? How do you work? How much do you know about Sam Adler when you typed the first word? Do you discover him along the way or bring him in fully formed.