I'm working on a script. No surprise there. And I'm also writing a character reference for a colleague that's due next week. And the thing I'm realizing is: the two are remarkably similar.
Okay, so my character reference has to be two pages, while most of my TAGS (or the character descriptions) are a few sentences at most, and only a few words for secondary characters, if even that. Though when I'm working on longer projects, from feature film specs to spec teleplays, I develop well-rounded character descriptions that can include everything from a character's favorite color to what influenced him in his childhood to make him the adult he is today.
In the colleague reference, I have been asked to detail the past few years of accomplishments and the reasons why I am nominating this person for an award. In collecting all my information, I have been asking and answering similar questions that I do when developing a character: what is her motivation? How did she get to where is she is today? What does she hope to achieve next?
I've even looked into the small details I know about her, things that will make the nominating committee understand that I know this person about as well as one can know a colleague (and, I'll admit, a friend). And hopefully, with my carefully crafted words, I will elicit empathy for her, and persuade them to pick her among all the nominees to be honored.
It is this empathy I am also hoping to evoke with my audience for my characters. Whether or not you agree with my character and his actions, you can still feel an empathy for his situation and his choices...as long as I've done my homework and gotten to know that character as well as any author can know those she writes about.
So...how well do you know your characters? If you can write each of them a two-page character reference, then I'd say you're on the right track.