Nailing Your Character’s Personality

Posted by on May 13, 2015 | 4 comments

Nailing Your Character’s Personality

How do you take the characters in your head and turn them into believable people on the page? This week we will look at some practical questions to ask yourself about the imaginary people that inhabit your writer’s mind. Nailing  your character’s personality will make your story come to life in the minds of your readers.




Wandering Wednesdays

When Your Imaginary Friends Become Real People

Who are these people anyway? Where did they come from, and what are they doing in my story?

One of the joys of being a writer is that you can have imaginary friends even though you’re grown up! People will still think you’re strange, but you will know other people who have imaginary friends too.

If your characters are like mine, they can do and say the most unexpected things, right in the middle of a perfectly good chapter, and all of a sudden the whole story is headed in a different direction. I can’t control my characters any more than I can control my children. In fact, they are so real to me that my husband says they have been having dinner with us for years.

I’m a pantster, not a plotter. However, there are times in the life of a manuscript when it becomes necessary to get down to the nitty-gritty of who these characters are and what in the world they want out of life. This requires spending time getting acquainted with them on a more personal basis.

Several years ago, a writer posted a Character Background Sheet on her blog. I have since forgotten who she was or where I got it, but I have used it and revised it so that it has become my own. I won’t plagiarize, but I do want to share some things that have been very helpful as I fine-tune my story. You plotters out there will probably use a tool like this in the beginning. I personally find that I need it more later on when I know where they story is going and need to decide how a particular character will react to a new situation. I fill this form out after I have a character to work with. Once I know a character, just like a friend, I can more accurately predict how they will respond to what life throws at them.

Here are some categories of things I look at about each character. These are not set in stone. Use this as a tool to create your own character backgrounds, and do as I have, make it your own.


The Basics:



Hair color

Eye color

Facial features

Body type

What physical traits do they like about themselves and which do they hate?

What would someone notice about them first?



Where do they live?

Have they always lived there?

Do they like it there”

Why do they like it? If not, why?

Where did they go to school?

What did they study?

What kind of student were they?

What is their occupation?

What did they want to become as a child?

Do they like their job? If not, why?

How much money do they make?

Big spender or spendthrift?

What kind of house do they live in?

What kind of car do they drive?

Favorite color

Favorite ice cream

Coffee, tea, water?

Favorite foods?

Least favorite foods?

Do they like the rain?



What is their family like?

Who are their family members?

What are their family relationships like?

Who are their friends?

Where do they find their friends (school, church, work, neighbors, etc.)?

How long have they been friends, and what is their relationship like?

What kind of activities do they enjoy with their friends?

How do their friends influence their life?

Have they ever been in love?

Are they in relationship? If not, why? Do they want to be?

Who are they in a relationship with? What is it like? Is it what they are looking for?

Do they have romantic relationships in their past? If so, how does it affect them?

What are their goals for this relationship?

Do they want to marry? If not, why?

Do they have children? If so, what are they like?

Do they want children? Why or why not?


Nitty-gritty details:

If they could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Where do they like to vacation?

What are their hobbies? Why do they like these activities?

What are their goals in life?

Do they believe in God? If not, why? If so, what role does their faith play in their life?

What are they most proud of accomplishing? Why does it mean so much?

What are they the least proud of? Why? How has it affected them?

What one trait are they most known for? Why?

What is the worse experience they have ever had? Why? How does it affect them now?

What are they most afraid of? Why?

Who do they dislike the most? Why?



How do all of these things affect the character at the time of the story?


You can add questions to suit your own unique characters. This tool will help make the people in your head into believable, vulnerable characters that get into the heads of your readers. It will serve as a reference that can grow with the story and keep your characters consistent.

Make your imaginary friends into real people!

© Norma Gail Thurston Holtman, April 24, 2015

About the author:

Norma - LoMD 2014Norma Gail’s contemporary Christian romance, Land of My Dreams, released in 2014. She is a Bible study leader, and writes devotionals for, StitchesthruTime blog, and “The Secret Place.” She belongs to American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, and the New Mexico Christian Novelists. She is married and has two adult children.

Connect with Norma:

Book Links:

Amazon: or

Barnes & Noble: ?ean=9781941103173

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas Bookstore:



  1. This is such a fantastic list!! I see how it could even be useful ( on a pared down level) to help young people with creative writing. Thank you.

    • I’m so glad you found it helpful! Thanks for taking time to comment!

  2. Wow… this is just fantastic guidance for writers of fiction Norma!! Have you ever thought of writing a guide book? These posts are so helpful and I could see them in a ‘course’ or ‘handbook’ for authors…

    Your insight and gift for writing is amazing.

    • Thank you for the compliment! I really appreciate the encouragement!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Did you enjoy this?

If so, please help spread the happiness! Share this post with your friends!

%d bloggers like this: