How to Write Characterization Papers

A characterization essay outlines and describes a particular character in a storyline. The text should include a description of the character’s traits from different angles. Character traits include descriptions of a character’s physical appearance, personality mannerisms, motivation of the character and what role the character plays in the storyline. The character can be described in detail for a specific chapter or throughout the story to demonstrate characterization, which should paint a picture for the reader.

Description of Character

Describe the physical traits of the character provided by the author. Use character descriptors that give details about the character’s appearance. Explain the way a character looks by saying he is tall, strong or has foreboding eyes. Pull a definitive picture of the character from the text for the reader. Elaborate by giving additional details about the traits of the character. Indicate that the character's foreboding eyes are as dark as night, or expand on what makes his eyes foreboding.


The motivation of each character depends upon the type of character that he is. The way the character is written in a story indicates whether he is flat or round. Address whether a character is flat or round -- also called static and dynamic -- by elaborating on his context in the story. A flat character is described with little detail and remains in the background of the story. Little detail is provided on a flat character. A round character is in the forefront of the plot with many details given to describe him.


The two primary roles in a story are the protagonist and the antagonist. The protagonist is the lead character or the hero. The audience empathizes with the protagonist because it can identify with his experience. He is the popular character and central focus of the story. The antagonist is less popular and is active in the background. He creates conflict for the protagonist. He challenges the protagonist to grow. The struggle between the two roles leads to a lesson or moral.


The narrator often tells the story from his own perspective as the protagonist. The protagonist and antagonist can have things in common. The antagonist is the hero if the protagonist is a villain. The antagonist is not always another character. It can be an internal struggle, external struggle or another element of conflict for the protagonist. The character changes through a struggle in the story and grows through his experience as the protagonist.

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