Get to Know Your Characters With Character Charts

I'm on my summer vacation in a Colorado ski town, where the snow is still five to ten feet deep. Enjoy this post you may have missed from early last year.

You know how it is. You walk into a room full of strangers, and start off with small talk. If you're lucky, you discover something you both have in common that extends the conversation a little further. But to truly get to know someone, you'll have to spend quite a bit of time together. Sharing hobbies, shooting the breeze, and going through the ups and downs of life together help you understand another person intimately.

When writing a novel, It's necessary to spend considerable time getting to know the characters in order to make them seem three-dimensional to  readers. It's like writing a biography of a person you've just met.

That's where character charts come in. You build a file on each character. There are questions you probably never thought to ask your protagonist--like what he tends to do when he's nervous, or what is the secret she's never told anyone.

I've found quite a few character charts peppering the internet. Each one is a little different, and you might want to try out a few to see which ones work the best for your characters. Once you've decided on one (or more), sit down and have a cup of coffee with one of your characters. You might be surprised at what they share with you.

Character Charts to Check Out
For the visual oriented writers, here is a fascinating group of 29 pages(.pdf)--everything from character attributes, to the evolution of a character's arc through the story. While there are a few pages I'm not sure how to use, I will definitely print out an make use of several.

A comprehensive chart (you can click on the .pdf download or see it on the webpage), includes a link to an astrological chart for your character.

The folks at Creative-Writing-Solutions have a whole group of charts. If you write fantasy, you may need a chart to help you identify the details of a new race, or a particular creature. They've also got charts for pets, vehicles, buildings, and new lands. You can access all of them here.

Writer's Village University has a free Character Building Workshop, with online quizzes that help you narrow down your character's traits.

Sandra Miller has compiled a list of questions you can ask your character in her character exercises.

What have you found to be the best way to get to know a character? Have you ever been surprised by what you've learned?


  1. I love developping my characters in depth, but unfortunately filling out character charts requires a lot of time for me. I do them every now and then, though, but don't usually fill out detailed questions that wouldn't help me in developping my character too much. However, I do enjoy journaling from my characters point of view to help establish his/her voice.

    Thanks for sharing these links! I'll have to take a look at them. =)

  2. Thanks for the tip, Tessa. Journaling is a great idea. Charts aren't for everyone, but once in a while they jog my brain to think of issues that I might not have come up with on my own.


  3. Awesome! You continue to come up with such helpful little writing doodads. I love it!

  4. Debbie, characters are my weakness. I should clarify: main characters are my weakness. For some reason I always make other characters more interesting (according to my Beta Readers' comments.)

    Thanks for the links.


  5. Thanks, Deana. Glad you found something useful!

    Lorena--I love making secondary characters really interesting! I don't know why that fascinates me, but you're not alone!




Related Posts with Thumbnails