I have a love-hate relationship with all my characters. They come along, introduce themselves more or less thoroughly, poke at me, invite me out to dinner. The more persistent, shameless ones have been known to show up next to me when I'm in the shower, in bed.
They come and go as they please, leaving me behind each time bereft and relieved all at once. It's hard, sometimes, to have all these people clamouring for attention, and even harder when they aren't there to lend their support, their very lives to my writing.
Of course, they have this annoying tendency to disappear just when I need them most.
Maybe this is the reason why I try to make the most of their appearances, to wring the last drop of creative spirit from them, soak it up and spew it out as ink on paper. I talk to them, you see. On paper, mostly, but sometimes in my head, too. It's difficult to take notes when you're driving.
Like most people, my characters can be reluctant at times, unwilling to share their lives with me, to show me just how they tick. But I'm persistent, too. I ask questions, I invite other characters to join the conversation, watch their body language, listen to the tone of their voice. I record their mannerisms and their idiosyncracies. All of this is important, all of this makes them people, real to me and, more importantly, to that fabled creature we all aspire to please, The Reader.
I particularly like interviewing my characters, putting them on the spot, so to speak. I plunk them down in a setting unfamiliar to them and see what happens. Maybe I'll post an interview at some point, we'll see.
To sum it up, though, to me my charactrs are definite people in their own rights, alive enough to surprise me (and to mess up my plotting in the process). They say things I do not expect, they do things they are not supposed to, but I really could not do without them.
How about you other writers in the ether out there? What do you do to give your characters life? Do you talk to them? Do you build them up at the start of the story, so you always know what they're doing? Or do they surprise you, like mine?