Character Part 3: Ghost & Passion

Character Part 3: Ghost & Passion

When puttin’ together your character, you’re gonna wanna give ’em a:


A “ghost” is the result of life experience. If you’ve ever danced with the darker side of life, you’ve got yourself a ghost or two.

A ghost is something from a character’s past that actively haunts them.

A trauma, a heartbreak, a regret, a sin. In terms of a story, the more profound this ghost, the better.

If the ghost is used as a toss away character trait, like:

“By the way this guy spent some time in jail.”

But that fact is never really used in the story – then it becomes meaningless and it’s a waste of a ghost.

The ghost has to be actively useful in the story. Actively haunting them. It has to have some kind of effect on the events at hand. Not just a footnote.

The ghost will define your character in the hearts and minds of your audience. They’ll feel their pain. Connect with their lingering sadness and regret. It sets the theme that shapes your character’s existence in the story.

What are some examples of a main character’s ghost?

  • They had a child who died.
  • They met the love of their life and let them get away.
  • They made questionable choices during wartime.
  • They watched their loved one slowly waste away from an incurable condition.
  • They had an enormous career opportunity and completely screwed it up.
  • They abandoned their family.
  • They failed to help a stranger dying on the side of the road, and have felt deep guilt ever since.

Giving your character a ghost, goes a long way toward building them up as a believable person, with their own messy history.


The flip side of this ghost idea is passion.

Giving your character a “passion” gives them a specific expression of something they love.

It’s what drives them. It’s what pushes them to stretch their limits, take a chance, sacrifice their very lives if necessary.

Their passion pushes them toward their future, instead of dwelling on the past. The way a character might with their ghost.

A passion could be anything:

  • A person
  • An idea
  • An object
  • A philosophy
  • A spouse
  • A child
  • The pursuit of justice
  • A business
  • A sport
  • Music
  • Art

Anything the character cares a great deal about. Anything they derive great joy and satisfaction from.

As long as your character feels strongly about it and is actively driven or inspired by it – you have a passion.

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