This exercise can be done in full - or you can choose the parts that appeal to you the most, and just do those.
Imagine that you became God/ the ultimate being - in control of the world supernaturally, whatever you want to call it. Write down six things you would change, or improvements you would make, and why. Once that is done, enlarge on the subject. If you wish to take this farthur, write down the reactions you think you would get to these changes. Choose two or more people you know, and two characters you have in mind, and write down what you think their thoughts would be on these changes. Then, imagine THEY are god - what would THEY do, and why?
Take your character through an ordinary day? What time does he/she wake up? Is he she a morning person? Does he/she have a buzzing alarm, or do they wake up to the sound of a classical sonata? Are they sub-human until they have had coffee and a cigarette, or one of those annoyingly bright and bubbly early birds? Do they shower? Is it hot/cold? What do they have for breakfast? Do they read a paper, or does it depress them? What do they wear and how do they decide? What next? Describe where they go, how and why, and what their feelings are. Describe lunch, dinner, (Can they cook? Do they always easy take-out? What foods do they like to eat? Do they watch tv as they eat from the couch? etc) supper, what time they go to sleep, what their bedroom looks like, and whether they find it easy or hard to sleep. Go into excrutiating detail. Part Two How can you disrupt this characters day? Write down at least five ways, big or small, and then write down how the character would react to this disruption. How does the character deal with change?
Words of wisdom: To know your characters, and fully express their personality on paper, you first need to know yourself, and be able to express your personality on paper.
Exercise Deep Down
Part One - The hard part :(
Write down ten positive traits about you.
Write down ten negative traits about you.
Write down the one physical trait that you despise in yourself.
Write down one physical trait you admire in yourself.
Write down five things you find very hard to talk about.
Write down at least five things you fear and, if possible, why.
Write down at least five things you dislike.
Write down at least five things you like.
Write down what turns you off in a person (emotionally and physically)
Write down what appeals to you in a person (Emotionally and physically.)
Write down ten things (anything you want) that matter to you more than anything else.
Write down 3 things you are ashamed of and why.
Write down 3 things you are proud of and why.
Part Two - The easy part!
Now go down the list of instructions, and do the same for the character(s) you have in mind.
Practice awareness. Be aware of what you are thinking, what is going on around you, and how it makes you feel. This may be hard to begin with, but becomes almost second nature. Ask yourself these questions:
What kind of emotion did I experience? (Ie/ Happiness, anger, hurt, anxiety etc) What was I thinking about before, after and during this emotion? What was going on around me before, after, and during? What physical reactions did I experience? (Trembling, paling, stomach clenching, etc)
Observe. Drink in everything around you. Practice using your five senses. What do you smell, hear, see, touch, taste? What does it make you think of? What does it make you feel? Why? Watch strangers. Notice details. Watch body language. Observe expressions, mannerisms, conversations. Where do you think they are going, thinking, feeling, and why does this particular answer spring to your mind?
Here is a daily exercise that can be useful. Once a day sit down somewhere with a piece of paper (or a lap top) and write down what you think, feel, see, touch, smell, taste, hear. Go into detail, but try to use the things that first come into your head. If you want to pretty it up, do it afterwards, on a separate sheet of paper. Once you have done that, choose or create a character, put them in a situation, and do the same for them. This can spark some excellent ideas, plus is useful at catapulting you into the head of your character.
Write down a list of places you would like to visit... countries, towns, tourist spots, etc. Now write down a short description for each, and a list of the things you like about them, and a list of things you don't. You could also write down the advantages and disadvantages of living there. This will give you ideas for settings.
Write down a list of every name you can think of, both male and female (It might be easier to divide it by gender) and try and include some unusual ones (this can be done by scouring a naming book or website). Go down the list and beside each name write down what it makes you think of (ie/ Ireland, corn of the cob, whatever) and a brief description of the kind of person you imagine fitting this name physically and mentally. Then go back and beside each one, mark out which ones are personal impressions (ie/ would only mean that to you) and which ones are cliches (ie/ say you have written down Bertha, and beside it you have 'large, aggressive female prison inmate or guard' - apologies to all bertha's here :)
Pick at least two to four female names, and at least two to four male names. Beside each write down a brief character description of someone you think fits that name, including the story of how they got that name, whether it fits them, and their feelings about it. Choose two of those characters, and work them into a story.