Here is your challenge: for the next week, collect fun names. I've collected them for years in a little notebook - from obituaries, news stories, random lists, and spam. Spam is great for funny names.Then go through your notebook, choose a name, and write a short character sketch based off that name. It's amazing how the names make the characters come to life and start moving the story in fun directions you never expected.
Develop your characters by placing them in a situation where they are faced with a challenge. For conflict inspiration, look no further than these classic moral dilemmas (and, of course, analyze them from the perspective of your character). For an example of a moral dilemma, search "The Trolly Problem."
In order to dive deeper into your character's emotional depths, ask a round of questions - both probing and seemingly innocuous alike. (Hey, you never know when your character's favorite choice of ice cream topping might come in handy!) While we encourage you to build and refine your own set of questions, these questionnaires will provide solid inspiration for now: Arthur Aron's 36 Questions That Lead to Love, and The Proust Questionnaire.
It's impossible not to put some of yourself and your own life into your writing. But when you're writing about characters who you don't share much in common with, it can be tricky to authentically capture their "voice" and point of view. To develop this skill, fill out this character profile and base it on yourself. Then fill out a second one and make it as different from your own as possible.