This year for Mother's Day my son brought home a handmade booklet from school in which he filled in all kinds of information about me. He was right on the basics: eye color, hair color, age (okay, so he said I'm twenty-one, but he's within a dozen years of right). What really cracked me up about this document were all the things he filled in about my favorites, because they were actually all his favorites. It tickled me that he thought McDonalds was my favorite restaurant and Star Wars was my favorite movie.
I do go to McDonalds and I do watch Star Wars, so he definitely knows me, but what he doesn't realize yet is that I do those things for him. This really got me thinking about my characters. I wondered how often I only look at their actions without taking time to develop an understanding of their character.
Sometimes I think I understand a character without developing their backstory (because it never directly comes into the book), but inevitably I reach a point in the story where I need to know that backstory because it affects that character's decisions, outlook, actions, speech, well basically everything. I can't skip character development even when I think it doesn't matter.
I once hear JK Rowling talk about Seamus from Harry Potter. She knew everything about his family and loved his story, though she never put any of it into her books. I also loved that Neville's story was so beautifully woven into the series and just as tragic and triumphant as Harry's, though he was a more minor character.
What do you think? Is it important to know all your character's stories? What about minor characters, do you know theirs too?