Writing a Characterization

Characterization is the means an author uses to describe or develop a character for the
reader. The brevity of a short story insures that there will be few characters. The main
character is the only character who is really developed, so characterization in a short story is
fairly easy to analyse. In complex novels or dramas, however, one usually finds more
characters and there might be several round characters next to the protagonist(s).
In fictional texts, the characters are presented through their main features, such as their
outer appearance, behaviour, abilities, words and thoughts, feelings and also by other
people’s opinions of them and reactions to them.
How to Analyse a Character in a Narrative
The author may employ the following direct or indirect means of characterization:
Physical description
Speech and actions
Direct comment from the narrator
Speech and actions of other characters
There are basically four types of characters:
Round: A complex and fully developed character.
Dynamic: A character that develops throughout the story.
Flat: A character described by one or two traits.
Static: A character that does not change from the beginning of the story to its end.
Functional: A character fulfils a certain function in the story, but apart from that
remains in the background
Five ways to analyse characters:
Motivation: What causes the character to act?
Behaviour: What does the character do?
Consequences: What results from the character’s behaviour?
Responsibility: Is the character held accountable for his/her actions?
Expectations: Are the reader’s expectations fulfilled or challenged? Why is this so?
Source: http://wiki.elearning.ubc.ca/tela/CharacterHandout
Read the text carefully
Mark or underline words and sentences that give you information about the
Put your findings in a chart that includes the following columns
Behaviour and
Words and
Other people's
reactions or
Note: Use these points as a help to check if information is given on a point – sometimes you cannot find
information on each point
Development: Ask yourself: In what way does your character develop throughout the
novel/short story? What are your second impressions of her/him? Did your attitude
towards the character change throughout the chapters you have read?
Start with a short introduction and present the setting, situation and the character(s).
Arrange your text in paragraphs. Start a new paragraph for each idea and use linking
Present the evidence from the text and comment on it. Refer to or quote the text.
Try to show how the different characteristic features belong together.
Finish the characterisation with a concluding sentence.
Finally go through the text again, check if you have kept to your notes and then
proofread it.
When you analyse a character make sure you do not simply repeat what a character looks
like or how he behaves. It is vital to draw conclusions from what a character looks like or
does. Use an adjective to illustrate a person's trait of character.
For this example, we'll use the character of Harry Potter from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
chases Malfoy when he takes Neville's
runs to warn Hermione about the Mountain
Troll on Halloween and helps Ron fight the
works to protect the Sorcerer's Stone and
keep it away from Lord Voldemort
courageous, brave, caring (for his friends), supportive,