What Do You Need to Know About Characters? Feature Menu • Characters • Protagonist and Antagonist • Subordinate Characters • Characters and Conflict • Character Motivation • Characterization • Direct Characterization • Indirect Characterization • Your Turn
Characters Characters are the people we meet in a story, poem, or play. We learn about them through their traits and their interactions with others.
romantic shy competitive moody Characters Characters’ traits are the qualities that make up their personalities. You get to know characters by observing their traits.
Characters Interactions among characters show how they relate to each other and affect one another. As Brandon walked down the hall, he saw Melanie struggling with her books. He stopped for a second, as if he might help, then laughed loudly and continued on his way. As Brandon walked down the hall, he saw Melanie struggling with her books. He stopped for a second, as if he might help, then laughed loudly and continued on his way. That’s not a very positive interaction. He doesn’t act like a caring person would act. Paying attention to characters’ interactions helps you make judgments about their personality traits. [End of Section]
CharactersProtagonist and Antagonist The protagonist in a story is the main character, the one you sometimes want to root for. An antagonist is a character who tries to keep the protagonist from succeeding.
CharactersProtagonist and Antagonist Quick Check Who is the protagonist? Daniel sat at the end of the bench, hanging his head. He couldn’t believe he’d had to sit through another game without playing. He thought of all the time he’d spent practicing and looked up at his little brother in the stands, waiting patiently for him to get into the game. Everyone knew he was too good to be riding the bench. Coach Adams smirked at Daniel’s disappointment and chuckled to himself. Who is the antagonist? [End of Section]
CharactersSubordinate Characters Many stories also have subordinate, or minor, characters to help move the story. friend neighbor relative teacher Subordinate characters provide depth and complications that move the plot forward.
CharactersSubordinate Characters Subordinate characters are sometimes round, flat, or static. round flat static Their role is to advance the plot or to help us better understand the main character.
CharactersSubordinate Characters Round characters have many different traits. stylish studious mischievous shy Like real people, they have more than one side to their personalities.
CharactersSubordinate Characters Flat characters have just one or two traits. grumpy grouchy They can be described in a word or two.
CharactersSubordinate Characters Static characters don’t change during the course of the story. angry still angry They help us better understand the main character.
CharacterSubordinate Characters Quick Check Which boy is the best example of a flat character? Why? Max wished he could cheer up Daniel. There was nothing Max hated more than a sour mood. He could turn anything into a joke, and usually did. Daniel, on the other hand, was more complicated than that. Sure, he wanted to laugh at his problems, but he felt torn between goofing around with his friends and helping his family now that his father was ill.Still, he knew Max meant well and didn’t want to let his friend down. [End of Section]
Characters and Conflict A conflict is a struggle. Two characters sometimes oppose each other. Sometimes a character struggles against a whole group.
Characters and Conflict A conflict can exist inside a character. A character might struggle with an internal conflict to overcome fear or to gain confidence. A character may also struggle with an external conflict or outside force.
Characters and Conflict Quick Check What conflict does Daniel encounter? Is it an internal or external conflict? When the team won the championship, the crowd went wild. It was Daniel who cheered the loudest and longest for his old teammates. He had wanted so badly to get on the court to impress his brother, but Joe’s grin told him that he was happy to have some company up in the stands. Daniel even offered Coach Adams a thumbs-up, but the coach simply sneered at his former player, just like he always had. Daniel shrugged. [End of Section]
A character’s motivation is the reason he or she behaves in a certain way. others’ actions feelings experiences Character Motivation Many things—fears, needs, or conflicts—may contribute to a character’s motivation. feelings
Character Motivation Quick Check What are Coach Adams’s motivations for keeping Daniel on the bench? Coach Adams looked down the bench at Daniel and couldn’t help but laugh at how depressed his player looked. He knew he shouldn’t be so mean, but Daniel was just too perfect; Coach felt like he was doing him a favor by teaching him that he couldn’t win at everything. Besides, when he was Daniel’s age, he’d spent plenty of time on the bench—thanks to Daniel’s father, who’d stolen his starting position. Payback felt good. [End of Section]
Characterization Characterization is how an author reveals characters’ personalities and brings them to life.
CharacterizationDirect Characterization When writers usedirect characterization, they tell us directly what characters are like or what their motives are. She was one of those people who could set you at ease as soon as she entered the room. She was warm-hearted, genuine and kind. She was one of those people who could set you at ease as soon as she entered the room. She was warm-hearted, genuine, and kind.
CharacterizationIndirect Characterization When writers use indirect characterization, they showthe characters’ traits, allowing the reader to make inferences based on observations. As she walked down the hall, her classmates scurried out of her path. The corners of her mouth turned down, and her eyes were slits. She slammed shut each open locker door she passed. As she walked down the hall, her classmates scurried out of her path. The corners of her mouth turned down and her eyes were slits. She slammed shut each open locker door she passed.
dialogue appearance private thoughts others’ reactions actions CharacterizationIndirect Characterization Writers showus characters by revealing
CharacterizationIndirect Characterization Dialoguecan reveal a lot about characters and their relationships with each other. Pay attention to • what characters say and don’t say, and • how characters respond to each other.
CharacterizationIndirect Characterization Pay attention to language the writer uses to describe a character’s appearance, including looks, clothes, and behavior. Her icy eyes were spaced narrowly, just above her sharp nose. They were framed by thin brows whose arch formed severe peaks at her forehead. Two tight, pinched lips and a sharp V of a chin finished off her face. Her icy eyes were spaced narrowly, just above her sharp nose. They were framed by thin brows whose arch formed severe peaks at her forehead. Two tight, pinched lips and a sharp V of a chin finished off her face. • Does the description give you a positive or negative impression of the character? • Which words contribute to this impression?
CharacterizationIndirect Characterization Writers can take us into a character’s mind to reveal the private thoughts and personality traits of that character. As you read, pay close attention to any descriptions of a character’s thoughts and feelings.
CharacterizationIndirect Characterization Watch for how other characters react to a character. Pay attention to • how others feel about the character, and • what others say about the character.
CharacterizationIndirect Characterization How characters behave, including how they treat each other, often reveals a lot about them. Observe characters’ actions to determine • what their personalities are like, • what motivates them, and • how they deal with conflict.
CharacterizationIndirect Characterization Quick Check How does the author show the character’s traits? “Just keep driving and no one gets hurt,” he growled. He wore head-to-toe black, from his heavy leather boots to the wool ski mask that obscured his face. Beads of sweat dampened his mask, and the white sack he clutched so tightly was soaked through with red dye. His breathing was rapid and anxious, and his eyes darted furiously from the rearview mirror to the passenger’s side window. Based on this excerpt, how would you characterize this man? [End of Section]
Analyze Character YourTurn Are you a good judge of character? Analyze two characters from a movie, TV show, or story. First, describe the character types. Then, write a brief sketch of each character. Share your sketches with a partner. [End of Section]