My characters are real to me. No, I’m not schizophrenic, to my knowledge. I can separate reality from fantasy, and do so, as it suits me. I mean, in my writing and editing, I go to great lengths to make my characters seem like real people. If they aren’t real to me, there’s little chance they will be real to a reader.
A book is a brief encounter with a character set. By definition, unless you are writing a biography, readers will be with your characters only for portions of their lives. Their stories, therefore, must be richer than what is painted in the book, or they are parts of people, not whole beings.
I often write short scenes or even stories involving my characters. A few of these make it into a book during editing. More often, these stories serve to cement the characters’ personalities in my head. I usually don’t even bother to write them down. As I fall asleep, or awakening, characters often filter into my thoughts. I have characters from different books interacting there. As a result, I can contrast and compare characters, and ensure I’m not repeating a favorite character with a different name.
When I edit, reading my hardcopy printout, I often have my representative photos of the characters in the scene displayed. The photos are never perfect, but they are close. I do spend quite a bit of time finding the right photo after the character is in my head. Their photos help me to envision the scene, and keeps them real people.
I am sometimes criticized for my work “lacking polish,” but I’ve yet to have someone tell me a character was underdeveloped. I guess keeping it real works for me.