Character Mapping: A Helpful Template for Fantasy Writers (With a sneak peek of my next novel included)

Photo by Hugo Ceneviva on Pexels.com

There are those who write off the cuff or “seat of their pants” (still not a fan of the term pantsers) and those who write with careful planning and consideration behind their every word. A good author uses both of these strategies throughout their writing. I’d like to tell you I plan out every word and storyline, but the truth is sometimes the best pieces or arcs within my stories happen on a whim.

Still, I love outlining. There is something cathartic about making a roadmap if you will of who your characters are and what they hope to do by the end of your book.

One of my favorite things to do when outlining is character mapping. I got this helpful template from my MFA program at SNHU. I feel that it really helps the character seem real in the eyes of the writer and also someone we can get into the mind of.

The best part is you can use this for not only protagonists, but all types of characters. Be they antagonists, minor, or even downright nonessential.

Again, all credit to SNHU on this one.

Without further ado, here is the character mapping template for you, potential writer.

And if you scroll further down you’ll get a sneak peek into the mind of Duke, the protagonist of my next novel The Good Shield.

Part 1: External Characteristics

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Name: Does your character have a nickname, or are there other names that different characters use to address this character or talk about this character behind his or her back?

Age:

Time Period: When does the novel take place?

Setting: Where does the novel take place?

Gender:

Race:

Species (including artificial life-form):

Physical description:

Relationship status:

Economic status:

Education:

Profession:

General disposition:

  1. As your character would describe it:

2. As others might describe it:

Family:

Friends:

Pets:

Fears, Phobias, Weaknesses:

What does their residence look like? What is the first thing a visitor to the residence might notice?:

Is your character comfortable with technology? Do they think it is good or bad?:

What does your character believe is the highest virtue a person can possess? Does your character possess it?:

Part 2: Additional Considerations for Speculative Fiction

Photo by Wellington Cunha on Pexels.com

Distinctive abilities, measured against a human baseline:

Where does the character live? In the country? The city? The suburbs? On a spaceship? In Faeryland? In a moldering grave?:

Is your character a member of the dominant racial, sexual, cultural, economic, and/or religious order, or are they part of a minority? If the former, what is their attitude toward the latter? If the latter, what is their attitude toward the former?:

Internal Characteristics

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Describe the essence of your character in one sentence, using a metaphor or simile:

What single event from childhood shaped your character the most, and why?:

What secret shame weighs heaviest on your character?         Was your character’s first sexual experience positive or negative?:

What would your character’s ideal job be?:

What is your character most proud of?:

Does your character have a personal enemy? Who, and why?:

What person does your character love most in the world? Does that person know it?:

Does your character have a driving ambition?:

What would other people say is your character’s greatest flaw? What would your character say?

What would other people say is your character’s greatest virtue? What would your character say?

When nobody is looking, what does your character like to do?

And now, here is a special sneak peek of how I put this template into action for the protagonist of my next novel, The Good Shield. Please understand this is very bare bones and as such I typically add and take away as the story progresses.

External Characteristics

Name: Does your character have a nickname, or are there other names that different characters use to address this character or talk about this character behind his or her back?His original name is Sitkano. The servants call him Sepo, which is the same respect one would show a lord. He is also referred to as the strobanth, which means shield.
Age:13 though this age changes from a younger version to fourteen by the end of the novel.
Time period: When does the novel take place?This novel takes place thirteen years after the fall of Terkia.
Setting: Where does the novel take place?Sambool, the amber kingdom.
Gender:Male
Race:Terkian, raised as a Samboolian.
Species (including artificial life-form):Human
Physical description:Stocky, strong. Short-cut dark hair, which is dyed. His original color is blonde. He has freckles and pasty skin. He loses his left eye and wears an eye-patch some of the time. The rest of the time he goes without it.
Relationship status:Duke is single in the novel. Though his sexual preference is left sort of ambiguous, he does prefer women.
Economic status:Poor. Though he is slightly elevated above the status of a common slave.
Education:Self-taught. Though he owes much of his education to Amelianna, the slave woman who taught him to read.
Profession:He is the king’s bodyguard.
General disposition: As your character would describe it:
As others might describe it:
He would describe himself as being able to think for himself. He secretly enjoys reading and has a bit of a short temper. Others would describe him as emotionless and a loyal servant to the king.
Family:His parents (and adopted parents) are said to be dead. Duke has twin siblings Trinity and Leo, though they are within their own separate kingdoms. He is desperate to form a bond with Amelianna, the slave woman who takes care of him. This however does end up costing the woman her life. His servant Naan is close like a brother. His birth father is (spoilers). Gazenga is also his (spoilers).
Friends:He wouldn’t consider himself to have friends, but Naan is the closest one he has. He also meets a girl named Sarai who treats him special. This also includes some help from her old mam, and Duke does make friends with his adopted grandmother.
Pets:Duke has a pet yellowhammer bird named Senzen, named after his adoptive father.
Fears, phobias, weaknesses:Duke fears losing to Gazenga the king. He also fears dying before he has his chance for revenge. He feels weak around the king, though others say he is stronger. He also has a phobia of falling.
What does their residence look like? What is the first thing a visitor to the residence might notice? Duke lives in a high tower located within his kingdom. His room is very lavish and his bed is often times made and looking new. It is because he chooses not to sleep in it. Instead, he sleeps on the floor. This stems from his time within a dungeon as a boy.
Is your character comfortable with technology? Do they think it is good or bad?Duke is not comfortable with technology, but is proficient with the weapons of his time era.
What does your character believe is the highest virtue a person can possess? Does your character possess it?Knowledge. He actively seeks it.

Additional Considerations for Speculative Fiction

Distinctive abilities, measured against a human baseline:He has the super strength of his people. He is also very fast and able to be free of most pain.
Where does the character live? In the country? The city? The suburbs? On a spaceship? In Faeryland? In a moldering grave?He lives in the desert kingdom of Sambool.
Is your character a member of the dominant racial, sexual, cultural, economic, and/or religious order, or are they part of a minority? If the former, what is their attitude toward the latter? If the latter, what is their attitude toward the former?     He is a minority. His people have been wiped out.

Internal Characteristics

Describe the essence of your character in one sentence, using a metaphor or simile.Duke struggles between his quest for knowledge and freedom and the promise he made as a boy to kill Gazenga. He is like a bird who is unsure how to fly because he has been raised by a wolf.
What single event from childhood shaped your character the most, and why?    Duke lost both of his parents on the night the king broke into his home and kidnapped him to use for his own personal bodyguard.
What secret shame weighs heaviest on your character?        Was your character’s first sexual experience positive or negative?He hates himself for being responsible for his adoptive parents and (spoilers) deaths. He does however hate himself even more for what he eventually does to (spoilers).   Also, further spoilers. But I will say he is very confused about certain experiences.
What would your character’s ideal job be?He would most likely want to do something with books. He does however become quite good with his words and actions, and his eventual role would ideally be more of a teacher.
What is your character most proud of?         He loves being able to defy the king and hold onto a piece of his identity, the medallion he was born with.
Does your character have a personal enemy? Who, and why?          Gazenga, the king of Sambool. Duke wants to kill him because of what he did to Terkia, his adoptive parents, and (spoilers). Duke however feels that he is not strong enough to kill the man.
What person does your character love most in the world? Does that person know it?Similar to his first (spoiler), he doesn’t know who he loves most. He does however feel a strong connection to protect Naan after being responsible for (spoilers).
Does your character have a driving ambition?            Revenge. And his quest for more knowledge.
What would other people say is your character’s greatest flaw?   What would your character say? He is loyal to a fault. He cannot change sides when it is necessary, and this will cost him greatly. Duke would say it is that he is not strong enough to face his enemy.
What would other people say is your character’s greatest virtue?   What would your character say? He has a good heart, though he rarely shows it. Duke would say it is his love of reading.
When nobody is looking, what does your character like to do?  Duke likes to read, which is illegal in his kingdom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s