As writers, I think we all strive for the same thing -- creating a world for our readers to slip into, one that they feel a part of and never want to leave. I want my readers to scream at my MC's and get frustrated with their situation. I want them to laugh right long with them and feel the same gut-wrenching pain when they fails. To do this, it's essential that I create multi-dimensional character, one that is a product of not only their history, but of their present situation. They have lives, and friends, and families. They feel, fear, pain, joy, anger and an overwhelming sense of responsibility -- and sometimes all at once. They are truly a crazy mix of fatal flaws and beautiful hope. To create these amazing characters is not easy. It requires a lot of pre-planning, and in my case, one archaic character map better know an "my mental whiteboard"
My mental white board is a source of constant amusement for my writing partner, Lindsay. When I am playing connect the character dots or trying to add a new thread, she will often chuckle and tell me to flip the board back a week or two to see what I've missed. As irritating as her suggestion is, it is surprisingly accurate! I simply shuffle whiteboards . . . toss one to the back while bringing another forward. I have one for each of my characters, each of my manuscripts, as well as for those works I am critiquing. I don't know how I keep them all straight --probably heavy doses of caffeine and an insane need to compartmentalize!
She asked me once what my character map for our MC, Jake, actually looked like. It took some time, but I think I've created a rather accurate rendering for her to view. Here it is! It may not make any sense to you; but to me, it contains all the information I need to create a fully fleshed-out character.