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What Is Included in a Character Study?


A A character study on Iago -- from Shakespeare's "Othello" -- would need to capture the complex characteristics that make him one of literature's greatest villains.

Character studies help readers better understand stories and writers better understand their own characters. If you are writing a character study on something you are reading, begin with a very close reading of the material. When writing a character study for your own story, begin with an "interview" of the character, so you can get to know her. In both cases, take notes on the main aspects of the character.

At First Glance

In your first paragraph, provide your character's basic information, including his age, appearance, likes, dislikes and basic background information. Include the character's family life, friends, hobbies and activities. What adjectives would you use to describe his personality? Is he outgoing and friendly, shy and reserved or a bit of both? Pay attention to the subtleties of his personality. For example, he might be quiet around adults, yet boisterous with friends.

Beneath the Surface

In your second paragraph, evaluate your character's strengths and weaknesses, and draw more complex conclusions about her. Explain how the character's age and appearance affect the way she perceives herself and the way others treat her. Evaluate her strengths and weaknesses. How do they contribute to her character and the story? For instance, instead of simply saying your character is a good soccer player, relate this to her personal life. For example, maybe her competitive personality makes her a strong soccer player, but gets in the way of interpersonal relationships.

Internal and External Struggles

Conflict is a key part of all good fiction and is driven by the characters' struggles. Use this paragraph to examine how your character's basic information and strengths and weaknesses contribute to his personal struggles. For example, if your character is overweight and is self-conscious about his appearance, that would affect his interactions with others. Include the struggles in all areas of the character's life, such as with his family, friends, schoolwork and himself.

Resolving Conflict

In your final paragraph, explain the choices your character makes and how those impact her and those around her. Are her choices good, bad or some of both? Does she eventually make choices that help her resolve her conflict? For instance, if your character has a hard home life and takes her problems out on a classmate through bullying, explain if and how this conflict is resolved. To conclude, analyze whether the character's choices impacted the story's resolution, and how she was changed in the process.

About the Author

Candice Mancini has always loved matching people with career paths. After earning her master's degree in education from the University at Albany, she spent a decade teaching and writing before becoming a full-time writer. Mancini has published articles and books on education, careers, social issues, the environment and more.

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