Creating the characters in my story is definitely the most fun for me. I love being able to form them any way I want: their strengths, weaknesses, goals, families, pasts, the situations they find themselves a part of. I always get ahead of myself and imagine the heroine/hero of my story--what they look like, their passion(s), their disposition, etc.--before I come up with a plot, an adventure for her/him to go on. I don't know if that is how a lot of you do it, but I always end up doing that.
Anne from Anne of Green Gables
Anne is quite the character, isn't she?
Have you ever seen the movie Miss Potter? It's a movie about Beatrix Potter and how she became a writer and illustrator. It's a good movie. Anyways, there are parts in the movie where Beatrix is drawing Peter Rabbit or her other animal characters, and they will begin moving around on the page before her. She will then talk to them; scold Peter for moving while she was trying to finish drawing him, tell the little mice not to bicker so (the second one was just an example I made up :)). The point is, her characters were real to her. They were so real that she could see them moving and would even talk to them like they were actually real animals.
Emma from Jane Austen's Emma
That's how real I want my characters to be to me. I want to feel like they are my friends and/or foes: I want to feel connected to them. If I think about a certain character for long enough, they begin to feel that way to me. And the best thing? I can make this "friend" or "foe" any way I want them to be!
Jo March from Little Women
I also like to model a character (usually the main one) after myself a little. Not too much, I still like to "invent" them, but I will usually make one or two of the character's qualities be the same as my own, whether these qualities are positive or negative... ;) I can then relate to the person in my story a little better.
Pride & Prejudice
Just like developing a good plot is challenging, creating interesting characters to go with the plot is sometimes challenging. People are often very intricate, and even though inventing a character of your very own is fun, you have to be careful to make "your" person's personality detailed (as long as they aren't too complicated to understand). Your character(s) should have hopes, dreams, feelings, passions and a little pride.
Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings
Sometimes, I struggle with wanting to make my main character too....perfect, too...understandable. I have to remind myself that the character is not going to be perfect, because nobody is. Even the most noble and good people in stories are not perfect. They mess up. They, at times, make the reader think, "WHAT in the world is wrong with you?! Swallow your pride and just listen! Can't you see what's going to happen if you don't?" Yes, we still become frustrated with even the best characters and our favorite characters because they are human, they are sinners and they are not going to be 100% awesome all the time. They need to have some flaw in their character; something that they constantly have to fight against to try and overcome, or something they might not even see or realize is a flaw (at first; most good stories have at least some element of people changing in them).
And, as readers of books, we all probably know of at least one character that, when a story first begins, you don't like them at all...
and then by the end of the story, you love them. :)
Pride & Prejudice
Even though character creating can also be tiring (worrying about consistencies in the personalities, etc.), it is cool to watch the people you create in your mind and from your imagination come alive. Make sure your characters are interesting and exciting because, after all, it is the people in the stories that make the stories the stories, if that makes sense. :)