But Jim, whatever do you mean?
There's a very real difference between noels and short stories, and it goes well beyond the length of the work. In short stories there's a certain amount of leeway given because, well, the story is short. readers might forgive you if the characters aren't the nicest people in the world because they aren;t investing much time in them. They will even forgive if the characters are too nice, for exactly the same reason.
That trick doesn't hold its own when it comes to novel length works. If your characters don't interest the reader, you're pretty much doomed. I'll do you one better. If your readers don't care about the characters they re investing time in, there's avery real chance your reader will walk away and never look back.
That means your characters have to be as real as possible. If they aren't, if they don't give a reason for the readers to at the very least empathize with them, they are not long for the world.
My first rule is make the characters believable. That probably sounds absurd coming from me. i mean,. come on, I write a lot of horror, science fiction and fantasy. But I also believe that as a result of the genres, I have to make absolutely certain the characters come across as more than words on the page.
That does;t mean giving them the most vivid descriptions known to man. far from it. I prefer to "paint in broad strokes" and let the readers decide exactly what a character looks like. Instead I focus on the emotions of the characters. I don't think I can emphasize that enough and I don't just mean the BIG emotions. Not everything in a book has to be in violent technicolor and surround sound. I mean all of it and in a dozen little ways.
Here's a little piece I wrote in SERENITY FALLS, a rather enormous book I did a few years back.
it's the introduction to Simon MacGruder, a character who has a very definite purpose in the tale, though he is hardly the central character. When it came to showing Simon to the world I did it while he was alone. The only tool I could use easily for that as Introspection. It's a messy tool to use, by the way. A lot of times it blows up in your face. It becomes dry easy to fall into purple prose and overindulgence when you are dealing with only one character. Hopefully I dodged that bullet.
Crowley is all business. He has no time for people. He is also, frankly, a bit of a bastard. Eidetic memory, hunts monsters, has absolutely no reason to deal with people other than in a perfunctory way. But he knows how to deal with them to get what he needs. I tried, again, to convey that in a quick fashion and to make sure that I portray him properly.
One more choice then, pure and simple action. They say that actions speak louder than words, and when you are using words to portray that action, it can get interesting.
In this case no introductions, just a bit more of Crowley. In this situation I wanted to show that Crowley is almost always in a slow burn of anger. Actions seemed the best way to handle that.