From the mundane and ordinary daily activities, to special interests or tastes, it's often the little things that help define a character and make them real to the reader.
But that doesn't mean we need to know every-single-thing that person eats or does. A character isn't a list. They should be doing something to achieve their goal and solve their problem.
Yes, ordinary activities can be touched on, but keep it light and move on. A line or two showing the character eating breakfast, for instance, or their lack of it, if touched on briefly, can do a lot to show the type of person they are.
Consider: are they a breakfast skipper? They could be someone who is nervous, doesn't like to waste time, is anxious, or just hates eating in the morning. A hearty breakfaster can be someone who likes to mull things over as they eat, or who is leisurely, calculated, patient, etc. More can be learned by the character's food choices: eggs vs. Captain Crunch cereal, fruit vs. pancakes. You get the idea.
Making Them Real
Other ways to bring your character to life:
* Give them a hobby, a special interest, or collection.
Does it tie into the crime or main story? Does the character's involvement put them in danger or can it serve as a distraction? How does it further define their personality?
* Make them a pet owner, animal hater or have them fear a certain animal.
How does an animal define them? How does it define how they do their job or impact their personality?
For instance, their love, fear or hatred of animals can put them at a certain advantage or disadvantage. It can show a different side of their personality, whether good or bad, nice or mean.
* Have their belongings and home, or lack thereof, reflect their social standing.
A lot can be revealed by showing how someone dresses, where they live, and what they own, don't own, or choose not to have.
* Don't forget to use the five senses to make the scene and character more alive.
While most of this may seem typical to the writer, as you get involved in the story it is easy sometimes to overlook or gloss over the smaller details.
The sneer of a lip, a smirk, a lowering of the eyelashes, all are actions that combined with a strong plot and a quick-moving story can make that character into someone memorable - a person the reader despises, fears, maybe even adores, but most importantly, wants to know more about. It is then you as a writer have succeeded.
** Christine Verstraete's latest stories include "The Killer Valentine Ball" from MuseItUp Publishing; "Kinetic Dreams" in Hot & Steamy, Tales of Steampunk Romance and "Edison Kinetic Light and Steam Power" in Steampunk'd, both from DAW Books. She also is author of the dollhouse collector's book, In Miniature Style II, and a children's mystery, Searching for a Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery.