There are numerous ways I go about creating richer characters. I fill out questionnaires, mind-map more to figure out their history/what happens to them, and consciously try to flip cliches on their head. But the tool that I use the most and that has helped me by far the best is the Myer's Brigg Typing System. This is a personality type indicator that many use for their own personal growth, but believe me, it's wonderful at learning to understand your character better.
Basically there are sixteen personality types, each consisting of four letters. Now I'll just stop right here and say--of course there are variations within a type! Everyone is different, as we have different cultures, childhoods, intelligence, religions etc. Then some people are a mix between two types, some might be a "turbulent" version of the type or a calmer version. But these sixteen personality types are a really good starting point.
It works like this. You figure out whether the character/person is extroverted vs. introverted, then whether they are a sensor vs. an intuitive person, then a thinker vs. a feeler, and lastly, a judger vs. a perceiver. I've made up a little chart to explain these different points a little better:
If you can't figure out out your character's personality by just deciding between the different aspects, there are free tests online. They're not always accurate, as it's easy to fall into answering it unconsciously from your point of view, but they can get you going in the right direction. https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types is my favorite site for referral on the personality types. It has a quiz to take, and gives a basic understanding of each type. Once I know what my character's personality type is, I research that personality further. I read various articles for specific character aspects. It's a lot of fun learning about different personalities and I enjoy "getting to know" my characters while I study it out! :)
I'd like to go back to my point above--just because you might have two INTJ characters doesn't mean they'll be exactly the same. In my book Jonas and Olivia both the main characters are INFP. (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving). But that doesn't mean they like the same things, think the same way, or act just like each other. Not at all! That's why it's good to get to know your character on other levels, too. But I will say that knowing their personality types definitely helps me! Olivia especially was jarring me--something just seemed off. And as I was editing I realized it was because sometimes she was acting out of character. Sometimes I was writing her like an extrovert, (like me, lol) or the way she handled her grief over her father's passing just seemed wrong. Once I recognized why, it was easy to fix and she became a much stronger, deeper character. Knowing that both Jonas and Olivia are INFPs also helped me in writing how their relationship works throughout the book.
Well that's all for today! What's your favorite method for characterization? Have you ever tried the MBTI method? Let me know in the comments below. ;)
Have a lovely day!