Getting to Know Your Characters
by Jenna Petersen

What is the measure of a man?  Well, you may not know the answer to this thought provoking question, but if you are a writer, you may want to know the answers for your own hero and heroine, not to mention any significant secondary characters who you throw into their mix.  

If you aren’t sure what makes your character tick, how will you be able to make them tick on cue?  How will you know when to push and when to pull?  And where will you find all those subtle conflicts that will turn your story from blah to wow and keep your reader hooked from beginning to end? 

For me, the answers to those questions come from my own character template.  The following was formed by reading many books on characters and writing down the things I found most interesting from a variety of sources: 

Character Name and Title (if they have one): 

Character Appearance -- Gives you the basics in case you forget, which happens more than you’d probably like to admit.






Other: Including, but not limited to, scars, birthmarks, physical impression they give, posture, what hand they use to write… anything physical that may stand out about them.


Character Background




Financial Status:

Marital Status: 

Significant Factors (at least 5) – These are events that have happened in your character’s life, along with some brief description of WHY they were important.

Significant Relationships – As many of as few as you’d like, but think hard about this.  Even if the heroine’s mother is dead, that relationship could still be a significant one, especially if it influences choices she makes within the confines of your book. 

Positive/ Negative Traits – Some of these will be the same.  Headstrong can be good, but it can also mean stubborn.  

Goals – If you can add how they directly conflict with your hero’s goals, you’ll be even better! 

Internal/External Conflicts – Within the story, within her relationship with the hero and within herself. 

Whether you get into your characters’ heads before you even think of plot or do it long after you’ve written THE END and are preparing to edit, finding out these important details will surprise you and spark new ideas for the direction of you story.