Aravis Girl has an interesting post about The Evolution of a Story.
In her post, she describes how her her characters evolve as she writes. Sometimes, it is in the interest of the story, but other times it's because she gets to know the characters better.
I've had the same thing happen--to the point where I end up changing the entire story because the character is leading me.
And, sometimes, my protag evolves into an entire new character.
Does this happen to you?
One of the things I enjoy doing before and during writing a story, is to continually develop my characters. I fill out a character questionnaire or two and watch the world for interesting quirks, hobbies, habits, obsessions, mannerisms, etc. to apply to my characters to help develop them. When I'm in the middle of writing story, even when I'm not actually writing, my mind is always acutely aware of my story and its characters. So, when I notice something in a person in real life or on television, for example, I will directly realize that the trait I see belongs to my character. Sometimes these traits seem to come out of the blue.
I believe a well-developed character (both in the story and behind the scenes) will lead herself in a story. The reader should never be surprised (I am not referring to plot surprises here) in how the protag responds to or avoids things (and, yes, I know there are many exceptions).
Here are some interesting articles on character evolution and how to make your character interesting without becoming a two-dimensional cliched stereotype:
J. J. Dare discusses how to keep character from becoming charicatures by using the Character Police.
How to Develop Interesting Characters discusses the need to show how the character grows and reacts to elements of the plot and story.
How to Develop a Character gives tips on developing characters and how or when to reveal these characteristics.
How to Develop Your Characters focuses on goals, obstacles, arcs, and traits.
How to Develop One-of-a-Kind Characters for your Fiction goes more in-depth by suggesting to create a resume, shopping list, journal, and more from the viewpoint of your character.
Holly Lisle's Create a Character Clinic. Very comprehensive. It just doesn't get any better than this.
Got any good character building links to share?
On a different note, for all of you programming geeks: here is a funny program for Putting up the Christmas Tree.