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Character Sketch. Creating a portrait with words . . .

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Character

Sketch

Creating a portrait with words . . .

From Reading to WritingMary Oliver captures the nature of a person in her poem “The Journey.” In the story “Powder,” Tobias Wolff draws a more leisurely portrait of a man “in his forty-eighth year, rumpled, kind, bankrupt of honor, flushed with certainty.”

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Character

Sketch

Creating a portrait with words . . .

A good character sketch captures the personality and appearance of a person and can be part of almost any writing genre, from poetry to fictional narratives to biography to news stories.

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B a s i c s i n a B o x

RUBRIC

Character Sketch at a Glance

Standards for Writing

A successful character sketch should

physical description

person’s action and speech

mannerisms of person

  • present a vivid picture of the personality and physical appearance of a person
  • establish a dominant, or main, impression of the person
  • reveal the writer’s response to the person
  • include dialogue, mannerisms, description, and other devices that show rather than tell what the character is like
  • place the character in a context that contributes to the reader’s understanding of the character
  • have a clear organizational structure and a strong conclusion

MAIN IMPRESSION OF SUBJECT

writer’sfeelings about the person

other people’s reactions to the person

surroundings

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Prewriting

1

Writing Your Character Sketch

A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes.

Richard North Patterson

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Prewriting

1

Writing Your Character Sketch

Whom do you want to write about?

  • You can choose someone you know well.
  • You might consider an interesting relative, a special teacher, or a remarkable friend.
  • You can also write about someone you have only casually observed but whose actions are unusual or revealing.
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Planning Your Character Sketch

1. Explore your feelings. How do you feel about the person? What tone will you use to convey your feelings—detached, admiring, humorous, serious?

2. Create mental images of the person. Mentally replay scenes in which your character speaks, moves, and interacts with others. Which details stand out?

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Planning Your Character Sketch

3. Place your character in a setting.Describe the person in a time and place that will reveal his or her personality. Whichsetting will best show how your character interacts with others? Which setting will reveal your character’s inner self?

4. Create a dominant impression. What is the main impression you want to give? What descriptions and incidents involving the character will best create this impression?

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Drafting

2

Writing Your Character Sketch

The best part of writing a character sketch is that you can start anywhere. Just begin drafting and let the person emerge as you write. You can rework the details when you revise and edit.

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Drafting

2

Writing Your Character Sketch

Show rather than tell.

Good character sketches let readers draw conclusions. Use anecdotes, dialogue, or any other device that will show rather than tell what your character is like.

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Drafting

2

Writing Your Character Sketch

Grab attention early but save the best for last.

Draw in your audience by starting with an interest tickler—a funny incident or a bizarre detail about your character’s appearance. As you develop your character, save your best for last.

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3

Writing Your Character Sketch

Revising

TARGET SKILL

WORD CHOICE

In a character sketch, carefully chosen words add clarity and vigor to description. Specific verbs can bring the action to life. Specific modifiers can paint vivid pictures of how things look, smell, sound, taste, and feel.

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4

Writing Your Character Sketch

Editing and Proofreading

TARGET SKILL

PERSONAL PRONOUNS

Pronouns help present ideas clearly and help prevent unnecessary repetition. Make sure your pronouns agree with their antecedents in number (singular or plural) and gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter) and are the right case (nominative, objective, or possessive).