How do I write better characters


The characterization We meet for the first time in school when it comes to describing the individual characters of a story or a general text in more detail. This means that we work out the essential character traits of the actors in order to get an overview of the essence and being of a character.

The aim here is characterization, to bundle the most important characteristics of a figure and can also be a very helpful tool for the writer himself to understand and understand a person's deeds and actions.

The characterization can be made for real people as well as for fictional characters. The approach remains the same, even if the characterization mostly plays a role in connection with literary texts and is not used to characterize the neighbor from across the street. But of course it would be possible.

In contrast to the description of the person the characterization tries to go into more detail. The description of a person actually only shows the external features of a character and is relevant, for example, for a police search or a brief overview.

The characterization describes Behavior, thoughts and the appearance of a person and tries to draw conclusions about the character traits of the fictional character.

That means, that the description of the person only provides an external description and that the characterization should also show the inner world of the character.

Note: The word character is derived from the Greek (χαρακτήρ [charaktér]) and means roughly Embossing stamp or simply Embossing. In the end, this is what we work out in a characterization: the most defining features of a literary figure.

Prepare characterization

Before we get into writing a characterization, it makes sense to do some quick preparations so that the actual work goes more easily.

For the preparation it is helpful to read and edit a text based on the upcoming characterization. This means that while reading, we are the Mark the most important text passagesthat are relevant to the character to be described.

But above all, it is importantto clarify a few things in order not to forget important details later when writing and to suppress relevant characteristics of a literary figure or to characterize them completely incorrectly.

Prepare the characterization
  • Before we get into the actual reading, it makes perfect sense to do some colored ones Put highlighter to one sideto underline important passages in the text. In this way we can mark which person is concerned in the respective section.
  • If you are dealing with a book that should never be "messed up" by markings, hold on to it in any case Note and pen or colorful sticky notes ready to find all details about a person later.
  • It is important herethat we not only write down the comments from the text, but ideally also mark where they are (Page number, line).
  • If we capture all the essential details while reading, we do not have to read the text several times, which is important for understanding when analyzing a poem, for example. This is practical and also very time-saving. So better do it right right away.

Write characterization

Once we have gathered all the important text passages that are required for our figure and characterization, the real work can begin.

Sort everything before writing the characterization!
  • It is helpful to sort all essential utterances for the subsequent characterization. We can use a slip of paper or a Word document for this.
  • Personal Data: Age, origin, appearance, occupation, social status and other features that characterize the environment and the figure in more detail.
  • Character behavior:How does the character behave? How does she speak and are there any abnormalities? Are there internal conflicts, important views or certain internal conflicts?
  • Development of the figure:Has the character changed in the course of the story? Has she thrown her views on the table or does she end up behaving differently than at the beginning?

Structure of the characterization

  • Introduction: Here we explain to our readers what to expect. We name the title and the author of the work. In addition, we indicate the type of text and clarify in one sentence what the story is about. This introduction should be kept as brief as possible.

  • Example for the introduction:Emilia Galotti, a drama by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing from 1772, is about Prince Hettore Gonzaga, his fanatical love for Emilia Galotti and his plan to conquer the girl. The bourgeois tragedy is set in the 18th century and takes place in an Italian principality. The figure of Emilia Galotti will be characterized below. → see writing table of contents

  • Bulk: We start with all the obvious features of the figure. That means, we name the name, the origin, possibly the gender and the age of the person and take a look at the social situation of the figure: What job does he do, what is her position in society and in which social class she moves yourself? → Personal Data
  • In the following the appearance is described in more detail, whereby we now also name details (body stature, hair, eye color and shape, mouth, nose, ears). The language or dialect of the character can also be discussed here. Furthermore, we can point out special abnormalities in facial expressions and gestures.
  • Then we give more information about the characterizing figure. We describe how the person behaves towards other characters. Perhaps she is particularly anxious or shy when dealing with people? In some circumstances we can also go into the character's social relationships → Outside view

    Now we continue to work our way inwards and describe the feelings, motives (What does the character want?), Views or internal conflicts and thoughts of the character → Inside view

    Tip: In order to answer these things in the characterization, it can be helpful to answer the following questions yourself: Why does the character behave like that? Why is she doing this or not doing that? to be given and to be substantiated by means of appropriate text passages

    We can conclude the main part of the characterization with a look at the development of the figure. Has it changed in the course of the text and if so, why and how can such a development be determined? In addition, we can set the inside and outside view in relation to the characteristics of the person to be characterized.

  • Enough: At the end there is space for your own, but short, comment or a personal evaluation. Here we can definitely criticize the person. Perhaps at this point we will classify the character described again in the overall work or relate it to other characters.
  • Tip: The end should always be discussed with a teacher, lecturer or contact person, as none of the points mentioned are absolutely necessary.

Important: A characterization always runs from the outside to the inside. This means that we start with the obvious features of a character and gradually move into the core.
Final notes on characterization
  • All statementsthat we meet in the characterization, we have to substantiate with appropriate quotations or text passages. It is sufficient if we write the page number and line of the book after an assertion. For example we could (P. 32, line 4) indicate when we refer to a passage from the fourth line on page 32.
  • In school it is assumed that a characterization is written in the present tense. You should definitely clarify this before writing or write the characterization in this tense. So we are on the safe side.
  • Furthermore, it is about a objective image of the figure to be characterized. Our own opinion has a place at best in the end.
  • It is also important that the character traits are not just listed. It's about one Body text to write and not just string together properties.
  • Other peoplethat we should name because they express themselves about our character just outlined become. These are not part of the characterization.

What things are important for characterization?

We wrote that it was important to mark all essential things in a text before we start writing the characterization. But what is really important?

In principle, of course, everything that describes our chosen character in any way is relevant. That can be information that gives us a Narrator reveals the character (→ authorial narrator), but also things that other characters in the course of the narrative express about the person.

In addition, the Of course, characterize the figure yourself, which is why we should pay close attention to their expressions and thoughts in the literary text (→ inner monologue).

Characteristic features in the text

Let's look into practice and consider these three Characterization options using a few examples. We have highlighted the most important passages.

Clothes make the man, Gottfried Keller
On an unfriendly November day, a poor little tailor wandered the country road to Goldach, a small, rich town only a few hours away from Seldwyla. The tailor carried nothing in his pocket but a thimble, which, in the absence of any coin, he kept twisting between his fingers when he put his hands in his trousers because of the cold, and his fingers ached from this twisting and rubbing. Because of the fall of some Seldwyler master tailor, he had to lose his wages with the work and had to emigrate.

He hadn't had breakfast yet but a few snowflakes that had flown into his mouth, and he was even less likely to see where the slightest lunchtime bread would come from. Fencing was extremely difficult for him, indeed it seemed completely impossible to him, because he wore a wide, dark gray cycling coat over his black Sunday dress, which was his only one, and lined with black velvet, which gave the wearer a noble and romantic look, especially his long, black hair and mustaches were carefully groomed, and his features were pale but regular.

  • In this section, the omniscient narrator tells us a lot about the little tailor from Gottfried Keller's work Clothes make the man So he shows us details about that Outer and also gives us some insight into the social backgrounds of the protagonist.
  • So we know our figure poor is and the job of the tailor.
  • Furthermore, the externalities are described to us, such as the little tailor black hair and one moustache wears, regular Facial features did that a little pale appear. He also has a neat appearance.
  • This characterization is called immediate representation by the narrator. In a drama this can happen by the way Stage directions happen.

Note: The clothing is also described in the text excerpt. This is not absolutely necessary for characterization, since it is not an essential feature of a figure. This would only be important if they really distinguish the person because this is their distinguishing mark or their most noticeable quality.

Now let's see how other people say something about a character and dedicate ourselves to another example. This element is also decisive for the characterization.

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Heinrich Boell
'Katharina is a very smart and cool person'

'It must be that strange, heartfelt coolness about Katharina'

'Katharina was always a hard-working, decent, a bit shy, or better said: an intimidated girl, even pious and faithful as a child'
  • We have here three exemplary text passages from Böll's narrative, each showing the direct speech of individual characters. All passages directly concern Katharina Blum, who is described by the other characters.
  • Characterize two passages in the text Katharina as coolwhat seems to be a common denominator. After all, not every personal speech is really trustworthy and should immediately find its way into our characterization.
  • Consequently, protagonists and deuteragonists can be described by other people, which can help us in our own work.
  • We refer to this as unambiguous (subjective) Characterization by other figures or figural characterization.

Note: It is important that we Always check statements made by other people and see whether these can really apply. Because not every statement made by a character is relevant for characterization. After all, they can also lie and report untruths.

The last, but still quite typical, possibility of one Self-characterization, happens by the protagonist himself. Let's see what that can look like.

Fictional example, Word growth
“I just don't know what to wear. Everything falls down shapelessly on me, on my ugly body, and mocks my hunched shape, "he thought and pulled the black jacket back down and slowly sat down.
  • We made this example to show how a Characterize the figure yourself can.
  • The unknown protagonist speaks to himself and condemns his own figure to the utmost, describing himself using two adjectives (ugly, hunchbacked).
  • It is important herethat we are critical of such passages. So it doesn't always have to be the case that the character is really ugly, but rather has low self-esteem. This is exactly what we have to work out and consider in the characterization.

Explicit and implicit characterization

All examples presented should clarify how people are characterized by others (narrators, characters) or how they can describe themselves.

These forms of characterization are all explicit. This means that the respective characteristics are clearly identified by other characters, the protagonist or the narrator. However, there is still the implicit characterization in literary texts that is not quite as obvious.

The implicit characterization is that Not said and yet obvious. For example, do everyone else turn away when a character speaks, or does one character turn up their nose as soon as the character appears? All of these are things that are not communicated directly, but can still make clear how a person is represented.
  • Tip: During the preparation, we can separate the implicit and explicit characterization from one another by color, so that we can sort out afterwards which hints we may have to interpret and what is clearly communicated. Why is the person shunned? Why do other characters behave one way or another?