I’m looking back over my characters, both old and new. The ones I’ve just met definitely need to be fleshed out properly. Older ones that I already know could benefit from some tweaks here and there. But for all characters created in fiction, not unlike people I encounter in real life, walking a mile in their shoes yields incredible benefits.
It can be difficult to get inside the mind of another person. Their background, upbringing, experiences and personality are unique to them, and create a very different reference point from which they approach life. Yet we are encouraged to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’, to imagine them as complexly as we imagine ourselves, in order to achieve some measure of understanding and, in so doing, make the world a better place to in which to live.
Since writers are, for the most part, writing about people, it benefits the writer to walk that mile in their character’s shoes. In some cases, this is actually more difficult than walking the mile in the aforementioned person’s shoes. We can understand (to an extent) things like playing football or doing other people’s taxes or fighting depression or falling in love. It’s a little more difficult to wrap our minds around walking in space or riding a horse in pursuit of a dragon or surviving in a dystopian city of cybernetic nightmares.
The focus, I think, should not be on the specifics of the experiences, but the emotions and thoughts involved. What scares the character? What motivates them to do what they do? What are their dreams? Who do they love, admire, despise, pity? What drove them to the choices they’ve made so far, and what will push them to make the choices that change your story?
It can be difficult, but you definitely should walk that mile.