Got Fiction Characters? How to Use a Character Web to Track Them

Techniques Exercises Crafting Dynamic Characters fictionCreating strong fiction characters involves knowing how to keep track of them. Learn what a character web is, and how to use it to track the relationships between your stock and dynamic characters.

But first, learn how talented writers create fiction characters readers never forget…

“Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him.” ~ Mel Brooks.

Are you fictional characters unique and separate from each other — and from the characters in other books you’ve written or read? How do they relate to each other? If you’re struggling to sort your “peeps” out, read Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nancy Kress.

And, learn how to use a character web keep everyone sorted out…

Fiction Writers – Use a Character Web to Track Relationships

Writing a novel involes keeping track of several layers of information, including characters, plot, and other key data. Getting this out of your head and onto paper helps with organization and keeps you from forgetting it.

A character web is a visual tool that helps writers see their fiction characters more clearly, and keep track of the interpersonal relationships in the novel.

Create a mind map of your fictional characters

A mind map is a visual representation of information. In this case, the mind map reveals your characters and is called a “character web.” The main “node” or hub of the mind map represents the main character; the nodes attached to it are other fiction characters. When you’re creating your mind map or character web, draw lines between the nodes to demonstrate which characters know each other, how they know each other, and who knows the main character. For more tips, read Mind Mapping for Writers.

List every character in your fictional web

List every single character in the story in your character web. If you create a character in your writing, that character has purpose and should be in the character web. Some characters will have minor roles and only come in contact with supporting cast and not the main character. Others will know only the main character. Use lines between nodes to emphasize how fictional characters relate to each other in the book.

Add to your map as you write your book

Keep that mind map handy, and add to your fiction character web as you write. Sometimes writers create new characters during the course of writing a story or book, so that character web is always growing. If you use brainstorming or creativity software, you can update your character web in just a few moments.

Color code the important characters

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Adding some color to your character web makes it easy to see which characters are most important in the book. Use whatever colors you like from red to green. Highlight the main character’s node in one color and the secondary characters in another color. Leave the minor character’s nodes white or empty. You can also draw symbols beside character’s nodes to highlight something important which happens to that fiction character in the book such as death, marriage, falling in love or solving a major problem.

Print and post your fictional character web where you can see it

When you create a character web on the computer, print it out and post it where you work. If the character web isn’t there to serve as a visual reminder of your character’s relationships, then it’s not doing its job. This applies to character webs created on poster board, drawing paper and even whiteboards. Keep those webs where you can see them!

Have you used a character web to track fiction characters? I welcome your comments below…

If you need help with your characters, read Writing a Character Profile? 5 Tips for Developing Characters.

Also, you’ll find a good review of Nancy Kress’ book Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints, on Write Now.

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About the author: Hope Hammond is a freelance writer who specializes in web content creation. She’s also working on her first book, and occasionally posts updates about it at her blog, FEBS.

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11 thoughts on “Got Fiction Characters? How to Use a Character Web to Track Them

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments. I’m not a fiction writer….yet! Right now, using a character web seems daunting, but I know it actually simplifies the writing process.

  • Damien

    I had no idea there were software applications for brainstorming and creativity. I have mind mapping software but this seems a whole different idea and could be very useful. I am going to check out Snowflakepro as it sounds really good and useful.

  • 1stblogger

    I use Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Pro 1.0.3 for all of my writing, from the planning stages to the final draft. It’s some really fantastic stuff, and super simple to use

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I’ve never heard of Snowflake Pro — thanks for that tip, Delena.

    And I’m glad you liked Hope’s character web ideas…isn’t she great? 🙂

  • Delena Silverfox

    A character web. I like it! =)

    I use Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Pro 1.0.3 for all of my writing, from the planning stages to the final draft. It’s some really fantastic stuff, and super simple to use, but I’m still a visual person and like to have all of my maps, notes, and doodles on notepads where I can see them. My desk is always littered with papers!

    But I’ve never thought of a character web before, of actually mapping out my characters and their relationships like that. I’m going to give it a go with my current project. It’s my biggest yet, and sometimes even I forget everyone involved!


  • Karen Lange

    Thanks for this great info. I’m developing characters as we speak and it will come in handy. Thanks also for sharing the link to the review on my blog. It is a very helpful book!