How to Write Characterization Papers

Characters are an essential element in fiction. In most studies of literature, you will be expected to be able to explain characterization. Characterization is how the author presents the figures in the story. Characterization does not simply rely on physical description, but includes other facets. The main character, or protagonist, will have more characterization than most minor characters. However, some antagonists and supporting characters in literature make interesting character studies, too. Follow these guidelines to describe a character in a characterization paper.

Introduce your character in the first paragraph. State the character's full name as well as the story's title and author's name. Write the paper as if your reader has never heard of this character.

Write a clear thesis statement about the character. A thesis statement should include at least three points that you will make about the character. Three common characterization distinctions are what role the character plays in the story (either protagonist, antagonist or foil), if a character is static or dynamic or if a character is flat or round.

Write the body of your paper using separate paragraphs for each characterization element. Each paragraph should be at least three to five sentences. Longer papers may use multiple paragraphs for each point.

Use details to show the character to the reader. Show characterization with descriptions from the text, through dialogue spoken by the character or other characters and by the actions the character makes in the story.

Show what role your character plays in the course of the story. A protagonist is the main character that the story is centered around. The antagonist is the character, or element -- the setting or force -- that the protagonist comes in conflict with. A foil is a character used to contrast the protagonist, revealing more about the main character. Other types of characters may be stock characters, love interests or supporting characters. Explain how your chosen character affects the story. All characters contribute somehow to the plot and often represent literary symbols or themes that the author intended to convey through characterization.

Explain whether your character is round or flat. A round character is well-developed in the story, has many descriptions and character traits. A flat character may only have one or two descriptive elements or traits revealed to the readers.

Describe your character as static or dynamic. A static character does not change in the course of a story. These characters are the same at the end as when they are introduced. Most static characters are minor, but some major characters in literature have also been static. Dynamic characters do permanently change by the end of the story. Changes in the character may occur because of internal or external forces and can be physical, mental or emotional.

Use quotations from the story to support your statements. Put quotation marks around any short excerpts. Indent and offset a selection that is longer than four printed lines. Cite each quotation with the proper page number in parentheses, or a line number if writing about a poem or play.

Finish your characterization paper with a conclusion paragraph that summarizes the main points you wrote. Include the title of the work and the character's name once again in the conclusion paragraph.

  • Always cite quotations and copy them precisely so you do not unintentionally plagiarize.
About the Author

Based in Gloucester, Va., Janet Wooldridge is a freelance writer and proofreader who began writing professionally in 2008. Her work focuses on topics in education, environmentalism, child care, research and tourism. She holds an honors Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in secondary education from the University of Florida.

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