For me character is the most important part of the pre-writing phase. Only when I know as much as possible about a character will it transfer onto the page and into readers’ hearts as a living, breathing, full of flaws, wants and needs person.
I’ve used a variety of methods over the years to gain the most heart from my characters and have finally compiled it one Pre-Writing Questionnaire. It’s a questionnaire for the character to fill out. You’ll write the answers, but it’s your character’s voice, his/her words that answer the questions.
This document can easily be manipulated to fit you and your story’s needs. Answer all the questions or only half of them, whatever fits the mood. Even leaving some questions unanswered can be telling.