I'm sure you've seen all the quizzes that pop up around the internet nowadays. What fictional character are you, what is your personality type, what would your name be if you were a hippie, etc etc etc. But have you ever considered using things like these to find out more about and/or strengthen your characters?
I did an interesting test the other day with my characters from The Dragon Within. There's a great personality testing site I found online, 16personalities.com, which, unlike other personality testing sites I've seen, has you answer questions not just yes or no, but to what degree do you agree or disagree? I found this to provide much more accurate results than just 'yes' or 'no'.
Anyway, I took my characters and thought like they did, answering the questions to the best of my ability the way they would. The results were really interesting, and I think matched up wonderfully with my characters. :) I think it was a great test of my own understanding of my characters more than just their personalities, but how they would behave as actual people.
Then I did the same with a couple of my work-in-progress characters from Dragons' Bane, and the results were a little more than inconclusive. I tried it a couple more times and came up with different results, most of which just didn't seem to match the characters. They kept fluctuating in my mind, as I bounced back and forth between my opinions on the questions. The characters just weren't fully fleshed out enough to have a concrete personality...yet. ;)
Now, it's been a while since I've done that test with Dragons' Bane's characters, so I decided to do the tests again. Comparing them to my last results was really interesting, because they ended up being quite different. What I found, though, is this personality test really helped serve as a test for how well I really knew my characters. :)
There are other tools out there for improving characters, hidden in plain sight. Even those little 'what *blank* are you' quizzes can sometimes(note sometimes, as some of those quizzes are poorly done) provide interesting and/or valuable insight into a certain character or even characters in general.
Another thing I've started doing with Dragons' Bane that I didn't do so well with in The Dragon Within is writing/brainstorming sort of 'test' scenes for my characters, scenes that probably won't be in the book, but are a perfect 'test' and setting for the character to show his/her true colors. For example, I've recently been working on a character not yet mentioned, named Chanis. He's been a bit tricky to figure out for a while, because he behaves so differently in private than in public that I've had to really dig deep to find out what he's like.
Chanis is pretty much the biggest nerd of Dragons' Bane, haha. He has a desk in his room that's just cluttered with papers, books, drawings and diagrams, as well as little artifact-type things he's found and pored over, utterly fascinated with. He's very passionate about history and science-related things and will talk rapidly and excitedly about them for hours to whoever will lend an ear, haha. Yet in public, he's not like this at all. He's very quiet and sort of stays away from others, never trying to get in the spotlight or do anything that would draw attention to himself. (You'll find out why when you read Dragons' Bane ;)
So for the longest time, focusing on Lena, Blaze, and the others, I haven't known much about Chanis. But now I've put my attention on him, to really figure him out. I'm not to the point in the book where I'd be writing a bunch of scenes about him, so I simply made up a little scene that he could really shine in, and basically improvised what he would act like.
I wanted to see how he would react to others, too, not just by himself, so I gave him some 'fascinating' plant or other thing to study, something that could maybe have great value to the group. Then I had him present his findings to the few people who he's close to and comfortable with, trying to argue the importance of this find. One of them thought it was pointless and said so, which elicited a rather passionate response from Chanis, haha.
Whether a scene of this nature will or will not appear in Dragons' Bane, I'm not sure. But it's been a good test to really get a feel for the character's voice and actions before I actually begin writing about him. :) He's a bit of a background character to start, but he'll definitely get his part of the story later on.
Ooh, how perfect, too, because tomorrow I was planning on spotlighting Chanis for the next character introduction! So, come back tomorrow to hear more about Chanis and his view on life in Dragons' Bane! :)
(P.S If you were curious about The Dragon Within/Dragons' Bane's personality test results, here they are:
Kaena is ESFP
Jarden is ISTJ
Toran is ENFP
Treya is INFP
Lena is INFJ
Dailen is ISTJ
Blaze is ESTP
It's funny how perfectly these fit all of them too--like, they describe them to a T. :)