James Wood on Guardian Unlimited talks about character:
But how to push out? How to animate the static portrait? Ford Madox Ford writes wonderfully about getting a character up and running – what he calls “getting a character in”. Ford and his friend Joseph Conrad loved a sentence from a Guy de Maupassant story: “He was a gentleman with red whiskers who always went first through a doorway.” Ford comments: “that gentleman is so sufficiently got in that you need no more of him to understand how he will act. He has been ‘got in’ and can get to work at once.”
And again, in a quest to answer the question, What is character?
The truth is that the novel is the great virtuoso of exceptionalism: it always wriggles out of the rules thrown around it. And the novelistic character is the very Houdini of that exceptionalism. There is no such thing as “a novelistic character”. There are just thousands of different kinds of people, some round, some flat, some deep, some caricatures, some realistically evoked, some brushed in with the lightest of strokes.