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How Do Writers Reveal Character?. Feature Menu. Character Traits and Characterization Character Traits Characterization Elements of Characterization Your Turn. Character Traits. What’s your best friend like?. funny?. Is she. patient?. outgoing?. thoughtful?. Is he. curious?. shy?.

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how do writers reveal character
How Do Writers Reveal Character?

Feature Menu

Character Traits and Characterization

Character Traits


Elements of Characterization

Your Turn

character traits
Character Traits

What’s your best friend like?


Is she . . .




Is he . . .



character traits1
Character Traits

The words you use to describe your friend are his or her character traits.

Now, how did you find out that your friend is funny, patient, and outgoing?

“Hi! I’m funny, patient, and outgoing!”

Did she tell you?

Or did she show you?


In a story, the process of revealing a character’s traits is called characterization.

Writers who tell you what a character is like are using direct characterization.

Writers who show you what a character is like are using indirect characterization.


Indirect characterization is more like the way we find out about people in real life.

In real life, people don’t wear T-shirts that tell what they’re like—


great sense of humor




though that might make life a lot easier!



This writer uses direct characterization to tell you exactly what the character is like.

Carmela is funny, honest, and kind—a rare combination at her school. She has a smile that makes people trust her right away, and she never lets anyone down.

The writer even lists Carmela’s character traits for you.



Most writers use indirect characterization. They want you to observe the characters and figure them out.

Carmela found the new girl and asked her to kick the ball around and get warmed up. Soon, other players asked to join in. The coach smiled. Everyone seemed to work a little harder when Carmela was around.

This writer shows you what Carmela is like.

character traits and characterization
Character Traits and Characterization

Quick Check

Is this an example of direct characterization, or is it indirect characterization?

Tony stared down at the slip of paper in his hand. Several times he picked up the phone, then set it down again. Finally he dialed the number, then waited while it rang and rang. He was clearing his throat just as someone picked up on the other end. “Is Kendra there?” Tony blurted without a hello.

[End of Section]


Elements of Characterization

How does a writer show what a character is like?





Elements of Characterization

How does a writer show what a character is like?

thoughts and feelings

other characters’ reactions


Elements of Characterization

Appearance is often your first clue to character.

The new boy slouched against the lockers, his brown eyes blazing at Mr. Martinez. He was tall and thin, with neatly combed hair. His crisp white shirt was tucked into slacks that were just a little too short, showing black socks. His shoes were scuffed brown leather—but showed signs of a recent polishing.

What can you guess about this character based on his appearance?

What can you guess about “the new boy” based on his appearance?


Elements of Characterization

Action is another clue to character. What does the character do?

Luis danced into the kitchen, singing along with the song on the radio. He paused just long enough to give his mother a loud kiss on the cheek, then danced out the door.

Which of these words would you use to describe Luis as a character? (You may pick more than one.)






Elements of Characterization

Listen to how a character talks. Her speech will tell you what she’s like—indirectly.

“I don’t have to do what you say!” screamed Darlene as she kicked the new baby sitter in the shins.

Is Darlene . . .








Elements of Characterization

In real life, you can’t read another person’s mind.

When Kevin cut his hand in art class, it looked so gross. He shouldn’t have been playing around like that. For one thing, he ruined my appetite for a week!

Kerri’s pups were cute, but I didn’t like their muddy paws. I didn’t want to hurt Kerri’s feelings, so I just smiled and didn’t say anything. I guess I’m more of a cat person.

However, in a story you can find out a character’s thoughts and feelings.


Elements of Characterization

Thoughts and feelings can show you how a character reacts to certain types of situations.

Julie wanted to cry when she saw the stray cat. Its ribs were showing. She desperately wanted to add it to her well-fed tribe of cats at home.

How would Julie react if she saw other children teasing an animal?


Elements of Characterization

Other characters’ reactions to a character can be helpful.

How do others act toward the character? What do they say?


Elements of Characterization

Just as in real life, you have to consider the source. Can you trust another character’s reactions?

“Yeah, right.”

If a character is insulting to everyone, her comments probably tell you more about her than the others.

[End of Section]

elements of characterization
Elements of Characterization

Quick Check

Which elements of characterization are used?

Jackson spent the first day of summer vacation in his room reading comic books. Several times, when his little brother stopped by and asked if he wanted to play a game or go to the park, Jackson said no.

“But Jackson, it’s the FIRST DAY of vacation,” Devon whined. “How can you sit in here and read?!!”

“Listen, squirt, quit bugging me!” Jackson felt a twinge of guilt, but he didn’t take back his words.

  • Appearance
  • Actions
  • Speech
  • Thoughts and feelings
  • Others’ reactions

[End of Section]

analyze characters
Analyze Characters

Your Turn

  • Explain the difference between direct and indirect characterization.
analyze characters1
Analyze Characters

Your Turn

  • Explain the difference between direct and indirect characterization.
  • 2. Think of a favorite character from a story or novel. Write down two or three words that describe the character. Then, provide an example of how the writer revealed each characteristic. Use a graphic like the one on the next slide.
analyze characters2
Analyze Characters

Your Turn

name of character

character trait

example of how writer revealed the trait

[End of Section]