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Character. Feature Menu. Creating Characters Character Development Speech Appearance Private Thoughts How Other Characters Feel Actions Direct and Indirect Characterization Practice. Creating Characters.

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Feature Menu

  • Creating Characters
  • Character Development
    • Speech
    • Appearance
    • Private Thoughts
    • How Other Characters Feel
    • Actions
  • Direct and Indirect Characterization
  • Practice
creating characters
Creating Characters

Creating characters—telling what human beings are like—is the whole point of writing stories.

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character development


private thoughts


others’ reactions


Character Development

Writers build characters by revealing

character development4
Character Development

Quick Check

Which methods of character development are being used?

  • “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

What do you think of the man based on this excerpt?

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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 feel

Be aware that some first-person narrators mislead or lie to the audience.

Dramatic Monologue



Dialogue can reveal a lot about characters and their relationships with each other. Pay attention to

  • what characters say and don’t say
  • how characters respond to each other

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Pay attention to language the writer uses to describe the characters’ looks, clothes, and demeanor.

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
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 actions.

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how other characters feel
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 like
  • what motivates them
  • how they deal with conflict

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direct and indirect characterization
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 characterization12
Direct and Indirect Characterization

Quick Check

Is this an example of direct or indirect characterization?

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 needles.

from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

What kind of person do you think this character is?

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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.

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