I don’t know about other authors, but I tend to give my characters traits and background stories that never make it into the novel. A prime example would be the fact most of my characters have phobias.
And of all my main characters, I think only one or two of them had their phobias actually show up on the page.
BC from The Wanderer with his fear of spiders, for example. Or, Bishan who hates cotton wool and would happily set all of it on fire.
I am a pantser of sorts. While I rarely fully plot out a story and I never have an outline, I do attempt to flesh out my characters fully. I want to know who they are since it helps me write.
How can you tell someone’s story if you don’t know who they are?
So, I keep book bibles on all my stories. At the moment, I use slender A5 individual notebooks from Muji. They’re the perfect size for keeping track of everything related to a story.
The first thing I do is to begin a sort of profile of my two main characters.
What do they look like?
Do they have tattoos?
Who are their friends, family, enemies?
What are their dreams, hopes, fears, etc?
Now, a lot of the time, most of the information will never make an appearance in the pages of their story. But, it makes them real to me. I’m not a visual person–I can’t conjure up their face in my mind’s eye, yet all the written details make them more real than if I had a photo of them.
I believe phobias tell you a lot about a person.
Maybe not a lot, but a little. Some fears are rational–some not so much. Cotton wool, for example.
Toshiro from One Last Heist has two great phobias that are connected–the Ocean…and drowning in it. His beloved Mack is afraid of darkness.
How about you? What are you afraid? I have quite a few phobias–heights, spiders, bugs in general. lol