I've been in the throes for the Jewish New Year, a time of reflection and introspection. This year, I decide to re-read part of the Book of Genesis, to get back in touch with a part of myself that tends to get lost during the normal routine of writing, editing, and revising. I specifically focused on the stories of Abraham because scholars believe there is evidence he actually lived thousands of years ago.
The one story that resonated with me was the binding of Isaac and Abraham's reaction. Clearly the story is about God testing Abraham and Abraham's reaction. As I read the story I could help think in my writer-ish way, 'Gee, isn't life a serious of tests? And how we react to them determines the kind of people we are.'
If that is so, then I reasoned I could use that simply fact to sketch characters for stories the same way. For example, I could create a character who filters everything through a specific lenses. Say he feels persecuted so everything that happens to him must be related to those feelings.
Or I could create a character with several general reactions to the trial in life. That would have the character a most round and realistic feel. But as I thought about, if I want to give my characters a realistic feel I really need to look at the character from many perspectives.
People are complex after. A realistic character with going to have views on lots of different things. For example, religion, politics, education, government, taxes, money, sex, food, art, music, books, age, women (or men), children, life, work, and so on. All the things that you and I have opinions one. Some will be shared by the society, others unique to the person. Plus I need to consider the views in my fantasy world. So I need to add views on elves, dwarves, and other races. Also views on humans of other traditions. View on magic are equally relevant.
What this means is you first work out the general world details and the details of a given society and then you put people in them. You can go in the other direction too, but it is probably easier going from the general to the specific.
Now, much of the general info in my fantasy world is worked out: I've been writing novels using that setting after all. If I didn't have the general info complete, I'd be in big trouble. And some of the racial/societal views are known too but I've got some work there too I see now.
Lastly, I think this technique can help me create new characters faster. I just need to work out the reactions.