Often its difficult to imagine a character. I have a hard time finding a reference point, but that changes when a narrative is attached to the required characters.
I had to design these characters for a lesser known Aesop fable titled The Farmer And His Sons for the homeschool class I am teaching.
One of the things I really love about character design is how you can portray something very important with some simple gestures. Recently I discovered this idea in spades while drawing an apple.
I was practicing drawing an apple when I realized the tilt and angles of the sterotypical round, featureless shape. I tried to imitate the apple in its gesture and follow the curve of the apple to find the dip of the stem. Mimicry of weight distribution and simple features has helped a somewhat frustrating process.
It's true that basic anatomy is required to draw characters, but it is their character that matters more than accurate anatomy.
The fun part for me is how some unique details can distinguish one character from another with little variation: Tall vs. short or thin vs. fat all tell people about the character.