Elements of Literature: Character

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Creating Characters
Character Development
Private Thoughts
How Other Characters Feel
Direct and Indirect Characterization
Creating Characters
Creating characters—telling what human beings
are like—is the whole point of writing stories.
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Character Development
Writers build characters by revealing
others’ reactions
private thoughts
Character Development
Quick Check
“Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut
your throat!”
A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with
a great iron on his leg. A man with no
hat, and with broken shoes, and with an
old rag tied round his head. A man who
had been soaked in water, and
smothered in mud, and lamed by stones,
and cut by flints . . . ; who limped, and
shivered, and glared and growled; and
whose teeth chattered in his head as he
seized me by the chin.
from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Which methods
of character
development are
being used?
What do you
think of the man
based on this
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First-person narrators reveal their personal
traits as they
• tell their own stories (using
pronouns like I, me, and we)
• tell us what they think and
Be aware that some first-person
narrators mislead or lie to the
Dramatic Monologue
Dialogue can reveal a lot about characters and
their relationships with each other. Pay attention to
• what characters say and don’t
• how characters respond to
each other
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Pay attention to language the writer uses to
describe the characters’ looks, clothes, and
The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his
pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made
his eyes red, his thin lips blue. . . .
from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
• Does the description give you a positive or
negative impression of the character?
• Which words contribute to this impression?
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Private Thoughts
Writers can take us into the characters’ minds to
reveal their thoughts and feelings.
As you read, note whether the characters’
thoughts and feelings match their speech and
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How Other Characters Feel
Watch how other characters in the story react to
the character. Note
• how the others feel about the character
• what the others say about the character
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What characters do and how they treat each other
often reveal the most about them.
Observe characters’ actions to determine
• what their personality is
• what motivates them
• how they deal with
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Direct and Indirect Characterization
Direct Characterization—Writers tell us
directly what characters are like or what their
motives are.
Oh, but he was a tightfisted hand at the grindstone,
Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping,
clutching, covetous old sinner!
from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Indirect Characterization—Writers show us
characters (through speech, appearance, private
thoughts, other characters’ reactions, and actions)
but allow us to decide what characters are like.
Direct and Indirect Characterization
Quick Check
My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair and
eyes, had such a prevailing redness of
skin that I sometimes used to wonder
whether it was possible she washed
herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of
soap. She was tall and bony, and almost
always wore a coarse apron, fastened
over her figure behind with two loops,
and having a square impregnable bib in
front, that was stuck full of pins and
Is this an example
of direct or
What kind of
person do you
think this
character is?
from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
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Who is the most unforgettable character
you’ve ever met in a story? Write a few sentences
about why you find the character so memorable. Before
you begin, jot down your ideas on a chart like this one.
Most memorable character
Most outstanding character
Character’s appearance
Important statements
Important thoughts
Important actions
Reactions of other characters
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The End