Elements of Fiction: Character List


In developing your characters (or breathing new life into tired, old characters), you might want to work with this character list, but don’t try to work every detail into the story.

In fact, you are not required to cover every trait on this list; some may be unimportant for your story.

But if you choose to develop every trait listed here, you probably won’t use all of them. In short, knowing your characters well does not mean blabbing everything about them.

You may refer to the following characteristics for brainstorming (Feel free to develop them in any order. For example, your character’s name may not become clear until later in the writing process): 


Name and Nickname:



Email address:

Sexual orientation (heterosexual, gay, lesbian, non-binary, binary, transgender):


Marital status:

Physical attributes (looks):



Status and money:



Ethnicity (family history):

Diction, accent, etc.:


Places (country, state, city, home, office, car, summer home, etc.):





Bad habits/good habits:

Religious beliefs:

Political beliefs:

General beliefs:

Sexual history:





Personality (cheerful, somber, thorny, shy, gregarious, etc.):

Character flaws:

Character strengths:


Favorite books, music, films, sports, etc.:

Journal/diary entries:


Favorite foods:


Birthday/astrological sign:


Current physical condition:

Current mental condition:

Past physical condition (for example, a character goes on a diet and loses weight and is strutting her stuff, or, conversely, a formerly thin person has gained a lot of weight and must deal with a new negative social construct):

Past mental condition:



Don’t feel that you must cover every characteristic – this is a brainstorming list, not a task!




More Elements of Fiction:

Elements of Fiction: Characterization 

Elements of Fiction: Point of View 

Elements of Fiction: Story Structure

Elements of Fiction: Other Elements

Elements of Fiction: Building a Character (Character List)




(Adapted from What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, HarperPerennial [New York], 1990, pp 47-48).



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