A character map is a graphic organizer that illustrates the personality elements, flaws, relationships and ultimate journey of a fictional character. While they're often given as in-class or homework assignments, these maps can also be useful for keeping track of character growth as you read or for making up your own original characters for a story. Whether you're brainstorming ideas for an analytical essay or fleshing out your novel's protagonist, making a character map can be a valuable visual tool for tracing his development from beginning to end.
Charting Conflict and Change
In fiction, conflict pits characters against difficult situations that often cause them to change in ways they didn't expect. You can design a character map that traces a character's growth throughout the plot of a novel or original story. Draw boxes or circles to represent the character's state at the beginning of the story, the important plot points that cause him to change and who he ends up being at the end. When you're finished, connect the boxes to make a flow chart. Using the literary text or your story draft, write specific quotations from the text that illustrate that character's journey of change.
The details of a character's appearance, speech, actions and what other people think of him can give you valuable clues about his overall personality. Make a character map by drawing a picture of the character or searching the Internet for an image of a person who you think looks like him. Then, transform the image into a diagram by labeling different parts of the character with applicable traits. For example, you might write a list of important actions the character takes near his legs, describe his general world view near his eyes or state his primary internal conflicts near the core of his body.
If you're reading or writing a book that features multiple story lines, a character map can be useful for tracing the relationships between the book's many players. Make a web that links how the characters are related or connected, such as family ties, romantic relationships or friendships. If setting plays a key role in the characters' relationships, you might choose to draw your web against the backdrop of key places where the characters live or spend time. A web for "The Great Gatsby," for example, could locate the characters in East or West Egg in New York.
Identifying specific personality traits can be a good springboard for analysis of a literary figure or original character. You can gather information about a character's primary traits by creating a character map that combines personality elements with textual evidence. Draw a circle in the center of a piece of paper and write the character's name in the center. Then, branch off with other circles from the center that mention adjectives that describe the character. For each adjective, write a direct quotation from the book or your story that illustrates why this word applies to the character.