Wednesday, November 11, 2020

7 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Characters to Ensure a Deep and Powerful Story by Allie Pleiter

We all want our stories to go deep, to be significant, to matter to our readers. Often that means tackling difficult issues. For a writer like myself known for humor, that poses a challenging balance. How do you deliver joy and hope while at the same time going to those deep and often dark places?

His Christmas Wish is just such a book. I consider it one of the most powerful books I’ve ever written. It is just as likely to make you laugh as it is to send you reaching for the tissues. Maybe because that is how I view life: a combination of laughter and pain, or joy and sorrow. No life comes without pain, but no story would be bearable without the promise of joy. After all, romances are supposed to be in the “happily ever after” business.

I find that important balance in crafting my characters. Showing their joys—what makes them laugh, where they draw their courage from, who lifts them up—gives the light part of the balance. The absence of those things—doubts, fears, loneliness, loss—brings out the dark. Getting to know your characters helps you to take them through the highs and lows that create a compelling story.

Some questions to ask yourself about your characters (the he’s and she’s are interchangable here):

   What does he think he can’t live without? Take that away from him.

   What would she give up to keep this love? Ask that of her.

   What person does he trust most? Give him reason to doubt that person.

   Where does she feel she is strong? Put her in a situation that shakes that belief.

   What does he not realize he needs most? Let him discover what he truly needs.

   Who could be an unlikely ally to her? Create that relationship.

   Where is he mistakenly looking for support/affirmation/answers? Let him discover why these things won’t help him.

On their journey to these discoveries, make sure your characters encounter little joys along the way. Even the darkest of situations can have an element of humor. To me the most real emotion of all is laughter through tears. And certainly 2020 has had its share of just such moments.

Yes, send characters through big challenges. But also make sure a great big joy comes at the end. Nothing fosters the hope we all so desperately seek right now better that a great big juicy happily ever after. 

Infuse the perfect balance of both the joy and sadness in your story, and you’ll take your reader on a journey they’ll never forget.

Yes, send characters through big challenges. But also make sure a great big joy comes at the end. via @alliepleiter #SeriouslyWrite


An avid knitter, coffee junkie and firm believer that “pie makes everything better,” Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction working on as many as four novels at a time. The bestselling author of over fifty books, Allie has enjoyed a twenty-year career with over 1.5 million books sold.  In addition to writing, Allie maintains an active writing productivity coaching practice and speaks regularly on the creative process, publishing, and her very favorite topic—The Chunky Method of time management for writers. Visit her website at to learn more.