Characters are the heartbeat of almost every story. They generally have two different purposes in a narrative: to be human enough for your readers or audience to identify with them and to contribute to the meaning or message intended by the author. Coming up with characters is as simple as looking to our subject matter and asking ourselves who might be expected to be involved. But that only creates the expected characters -predictable and uninteresting. Making these characters intriguing, unusual, and memorable is a different task altogether.
Look at the subject matter and see what characters could be relevant. The characters could be a warrior, a wizard, a fair maiden and a gambler. First assign a a name and broad concept to each character. Now, picture these characters in your mind. Since we all have our own life experiences and expectations, you should be able to visualize each character in your mind in at least some initial ways. What personalities immediately suggest themselves?
The key to this approach is that our own preconceptions add far more material to our mental images than the actual information we are given. Due to this subconscious initiative, our characters start to get a little more intriguing, just by adding more backstory and details about them. The best way to break out of your own mind and from cliché creations is to simply mix and match a few attributes. Suddenly your characters take on a life of their own and suggest all kinds of interesting back-stories, attitudes, and mannerisms.
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of attributes from which we might select for a character. These might include education, exceptional abilities, special skills, hobbies, religious affiliation, family ties, and so on. And each of these can be initially assigned in typical fashion, then mixed and matched. Using this simple technique, anyone can create truly intriguing and memorable characters. The characters we mentioned earlier, the warrior, maiden, wizard and gambler, may work better if the standard personalities we might expect are reversed or at least subverted. The characters authors usually pay most attention to are the protagonist and the antagonist.
Many authors come to a story realizing they need some sort of central character and then try to decide what kind or person he or she should be from scratch. But it is far easier to first build a cast of characters that really excite you and then ask yourself which one you would like to be the central character. That will create a more organic and fluid feel to the narrative. Spend time bringing to life the characters that inhabit the world you have created, and imagine the central characters that way.