I all my years of RPing, I don't think I have ever told anyone how I create a char or ask anyone how they do it.
I have created what seems to me to be a very complicated method, but it allows my char to basically have a life of their own. I don't decide what happens to them or how they react, I simply type. They interact with their environment and change accordingly. My method is detailed below.
I want my characters to really feel like they're alive and have their own personalities. I've got a way of doing this, which seems complicated to me, but it works for me. Do other people have elaborate procedures, or do you just dive in?
My RP Char creation process:
First, I create a name. This is a very important step. It has to be something I like and 90% of the time, it determines their gender. The remaining 10% of the time, I flip a coin.
Then, I decide on their profession. 90% of the time, the life they lead will set them on the path to the profession they will eventually choose. Sometimes, that is not the case; for example a rich kid who runs off to join the circus on a whim.
Next, I begin the character design phase. I sit down and compile a list of questions. Usually, I end up with 100-200 questions (I add additional questions that occur to me as I am answering the original questions). After I have the list, I start answering the questions. Some of the questions will be used to shape the char, some will be used for color and some may never be used at all, unless a specific event(s) occur(s).
Once I have the list of questions, I start what I call the Char Tree, which I design in Visio (a program for flowcharts and diagrams). I have a start point (birth) and an end point (the age at which I will begin to RP the char). Everything before and after the second point is blank. I being to create my tree, filling in -just- enough details to have a suitable framework and to cover the span between the two points enough to begin RPing the char.
I figuratively draw a tree and place my char's life on top of of it. Some branches fork many times, others may not fork at all. Some have a lot of leaves others barely have any. The leaves, if you will, on the tree are event points, places in a char's life where they could make one choice or another. As many choices as I can think of exist at each leaf. I call this a Schrodinger Box. All of the possible choices for that event exist inside the box. Only one will come out. The only way to determine what event will come out is for that event to come up during RP. I extend the tree out past the end point far enough to establish a decent framework for behavior/morality.
When I have all the paths and choices mapped in Visio, I alter all of the cells for events that have not occurred so that the text color matches the cell color, making it invisible. This way, I can see what has happened to a char easily. As I RP a char, it will reach points where a decision has to made. I roll a dN (where N is the number of choices available) and whatever number comes up is the choice I make. I then make that cell visible to discover what will/has happened.
For example, my current char ran away from home. Why she ran away from home is currently unknown. The top probable choices are a)She had a father who suddenly wanted to be more -loving- than was appropriate, b) she was literally swept away by a traveling circus, or c) she left home to avenge the death of her sister/best friend. It is possible that why she ran away from home will -never- com up and it is just as possible that if it does and entirely different reason will be the cause.
Needless to say, this entire procedure is very time consuming and I usually spread it out over a week or two so that I can have a solid framework.
Another factor that influences the char development is interaction with other chars. This will cause events to occur that never occurred to me. I add the questions to the list, answer them, update the diagram and make another roll. Rinse, lather, repeat as necessary.
An example flowchart