Character Traits: How your hero’s past shapes his future


Humans have layers: hopes, dreams, flaws, fears and secrets, and in order to create an engaging character that readers will relate to, they need those too. As writers, we’re always trying to find ways for the reader to feel that they’re sharing the same experiences with these strong, deep characters do. If you, as the author, create a good backstory and understand what your character(s) did before the story began this will help you to develop characters whose past are woven into the fiber of your story through their actions, words and deeds without overtly revealing their past.

Big elements to consider

Character relationships:

  1. Parents – are they close to them, distant, were they pushed or nurtured, best friends or authoritative, do they live through your character? Was there abuse, neglect, other siblings to compete with?
  2. Siblings –birth order, only child who craved siblings, close or distant and why? Jealous, competitive or supportive.
  3. Role models – who do they trust/not trust. There should be one person from their past they would never want to see.


  1. rule_the_dark__don_t_fear_the_light_by_adiehltwin-d6hkmqfwhere are they from? How did they grow up? Were they poor or wealthy?
  2. Are they happy where they are now and if not why? Do they see themselves as a successful? A failure?
  3. Are they thriving in their environment? Are they safe?


  1. Every situation is based on morals and there will always be a moral code that influences each characters decisions.
  2. The antagonist will also have morals however they might be skewed based on their view of the world and how they fit into this world.
  3. Every trait has a good side and a dark side. Ex. An honorable person has trouble making a decision.


  1. Everyone has fears that control their actions and characters are just the same. We all avoid things we fear and that will lead to your characters motivation.
  2. Inner motivation – they have to face their wounds and lies they tell themselves in order to succeed.
  3. How does the character face their own self-esteem and self-worth? They need to see that the lies they tell themselves is untrue and come face to face with it to overcome it.



What do they want for themselves more than anything? What are their hopes and needs?

Character needs:

  1. What does your character need? Does it shift their behaviour?
  2. Physical -Food, shelter, water, sexual?
  3. Safety and security – what lengths will they go to create this?
  4. Esteem from others – Feeling valued and self-confident
  5. Belonging – everyone wants to feel connected to people, valued and loved.
  6. Self-actualization – who is your character? Do they want to become something more than what they are?

These are just some of the ways you can create character profiles that will help you generate a stronger understanding of your characters before you start writing or even during the process to help strengthen your story. Happy writing!


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