The dreaded questions appears as a Word comment from betas and/or agent and I cringe.
"But what does he want?"
"But why is she doing that?"
Or even worst, "This character adds nothing to the story."
When I first started writing I was a pantster, ie, writing on the fly. It worked good for MY motivation, but my plots were all over the place. I knew I needed to figure out my own style, so I tried to plot an entire novel. It worked decent, I was able to stay on track and finish the book. But again, my characters were a little flat.
After a few moments of "I can't do this" whining, I begged my betas to help me figure out where I was going wrong. My AHA moment came when I realized I may have planned out the entire novel, but I really had no idea what was driving my characters to do what they were doing.
I've seen writers who spend days on character worksheets and I watch from afar (So not to catch the craziness! LOL) but in doing so, removed myself too much. So I bought one writing book. The first one ever. It was Deb Dixon's GMC. It was brilliant. I didn't need to spend weeks fleshing out my characters because there was a handy little chart in the book to help you break down the G-Goals, M-Motivation, and C-Conflict. In one chart I could see everything and a lightbulb clicked.
Doh! THAT's what I was missing. Sure my character may be obsessed with order and control, but why? Because that's 'just how she is' doesn't cut it and can't carry a storyline for an entire book. I thought about what had happened to her and realized she was scared of abandonment. Her mom left when she was younger, and now she thinks that if she's not absolutely perfect, everyone else will leave too.
AHA! Now I have walls to break down and wrenches to throw into her plans. I can make her suffer and grow because I know what makes her tick. This adds a whole new dimension to her and to her interactions with her family and friends. It was what the story needed.
A simple grid with a few words and suddenly it all clicked into place. IMO you don't need to do pages of character interviews or delve into the psyche of them at $300 an hour, just ask yourself the questions, Who, Why, and What If.
Then sit back and diabolically plan how best to make them suffer. (You can twist your Snidley Whiplash mustache for effect too.) Tear them down, make them give up, then....then the magic happens. This is where they grow and change and endear themselves to your readers. (Or instill a loathing that would rival any CW show's bad girl.)
The main point is that the reader needs to feels something. The one thing you don't want is for someone to close your book after that last page and look up and think, "That book was just okay."
Okay is not good enough. Strive for great! :)
**If you want to buy Deb Dixon's book, don't use Amazon. For whatever reason, they charge $80 for a $20 book! Go right to the publishers website and you'll get it for $19.95.