Know Your Character’s Family

You have family, whether they are people you talk to or not, they are your family. You also have friends, unless you are some kind of weird, really antisocial person. your characters should have family and friends too. You may not need to use any of these people in your story, but you should have some idea of who they are. I’m working on revisions in a story in which one of the main characters has his entire family around all the time, which can raise tensions. You don’t have to research the character’s family back to the Middle Ages or anything, just get a sense of what kind of people they were. I use a basic family chart to keep my character’s family straight. There are two kinds of family chart, the pedigree and descendant chart, what’s usually called a family tree. Then there is the family group sheet. The family group sheet is a little more detailed than the tree is, in terms of some data. The tree can show more than two generations of a family, the family group sheet just shows the mother, father, and kids. You probably won’t need that kind of detail, but if it’s important to your story, just list the family like this.


Father’s parents


Mothers parents

Marriage information

Child 1 – birth, marriage, death information, spouse name

Child 2 – birth, marriage, death information

Some family group sheets list the spouses of the children, some don’t. the tree is more sparse. It can give a little information as a name to full name, birth, marriage, death information in each box. how detailed you get is up to you. This is the family I was talking about from my story:

archer family tree

The tree keeps my straight on who everyone is and that helps a lot. Knowing your character also means knowing his family situation, even if none of his family ever appears in your story. The lines indicate the relationships between the named people, in this case, my characters. The generations are shown in the levels. In this example you have the parents, Lonnie and Mary, the second level shows their children, Jon, Jilly, Josh and Jilly’s husband Greg. Jilly’s child, Micah is on the lowest level. That’s the family group. A tree is better in this instance because Micah would not show in a family group sheet headed by Lonnie and Mary. Conversely, if you set Jilly and Greg as the parents, Jon and Josh would not appear as parents can be listed for the couple who head the family group sheet. Each form has its advantages and disadvantages. For my purpose, the family tree was the best choice.

You will have to fit your character’s family in whatever way you choose, these are only two ways to do it. either will work, depending on how much information you want to put into the chart. Another way to keep track of your characters is to do a cast list with small descriptions and relate them to each other. It doesn’t matter how you do it, it only matters that you do it. it can save a lot of revising if you do.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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