One way to get to know your characters is to write a first-person essay about the life of each of the major characters, relating important or life-altering events for each one—kind of "My Life So Far." Pictures help. Find the things that helped to shape his/her personality, formed her character. It will take a few days, but it's worth doing. This method really helps some people get to know their characters, and it will help find the voice for each one. Each writer has to find his or her own way. Try it and see if it works for you.
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If you cover the character’s life, you'll have much more information than you'll use in the story, but once you know your characters well, bits may find their way into your book.
How do you do it? How much do you know about your characters?