Which Story Element Most Clearly Shows Direct Characterization

Which Story Element Most Clearly Shows Direct Characterization

When you think of your favorite character from literature, you can probably visualize them the aforementioned manner you tin visualize a person you’ve actually met.

Y’all know the color of their hair, their facial expressions, perhaps even their nervous tics.

How did the author give you lot that mental paradigm?

Chances are, the answer has something to practise with directly characterization—the way the writer described the character in the narration.

So how tin can you write characters that are equally vivid and memorable as the ones in your favorite books?

Read on to see ten examples of direct characterization in literature, along with all the tips yous need to use this literary technique in your ain writing.

What Is Straight Characterization?

Directly label refers to the way a writer
explicitly describes a character’southward traits
in the narration of a novel or story, east.grand.
He had light-green optics
or
She was quick with a joke.

This technique is nigh often used the showtime fourth dimension each graphic symbol appears on the page, but small amounts of directly characterization tin can also exist used continuously throughout the story.

The definition of direct characterization

What’s the Divergence Betwixt Straight and Indirect Characterization?

Directly characterization contrasts with indirect characterization, which refers to the way a author shows a graphic symbol’s traits through dialogue and action.

If you lot want to convey a character’s generosity with indirect characterization, for example, y’all might show the character lending coin to a stranger in need.

If you lot want to convey a character’s bad atmosphere with indirect characterization, you might show them slamming a door or shouting at their kids.

The definition of indirect characterization

Here’south an instance of what that might look like in writing:

  • Directly characterization:
    Edmund was a snobby boy who looked down on his classmates.
  • Indirect characterization:
    Edmund sneered at his classmates and said, “Y’all’re just jealous because I’m meliorate than you.”

In the direct characterization example, the author explicitly states that Edmund is snobby.

In the indirect label case, the author shows Edmund’s snobbery through his actions and dialogue.

Direct versus indirect characterization

Both of these techniques are useful tools.

Utilize direct label for the virtually of import aspects of character development, such equally what the character looks similar and what their personality is similar.

Employ indirect characterization to requite the reader a deeper agreement of the character in a less straightforward manner as the story progresses.

Yous can practice this by balancing seemingly unimportant back narrative with the immediate action of your story.

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What Are the Elements of Direct Label?

At that place are many details an author can include in direct label.

Directly label can include the character’s physical description, such as:

  • What they look similar
  • What they’re wearing
  • Their mannerisms and gestures

Direct characterization can besides include the details of a graphic symbol’southward inner world, such equally:

  • Their interests and hobbies
  • What they desire
  • What they fright

The elements of direct characterization

Allow’s take a look at ten examples from literature.

What Are Some Examples of Direct Label in Literature?

one. The Proper noun of the Current of air by Patrick Rothfuss

Elodin was younger than the others by at least a dozen years. Clean-shaven with deep eyes. Medium height, medium build, there was nothing particularly hit about him, except for the way he saturday at the tabular array, one moment watching something attentively, the next minute bored and letting his attention wander among the high beams of the ceiling to a higher place. He was about similar a child who had been forced to sit down down with adults.

In this paragraph, Patrick Rothfuss introduces Elodin, the Chief Namer at the University.

Nosotros see that Elodin both looks like a child (“younger than the others,” “make clean-shaven”) and behaves like a child (“bored and letting his attending wander”).

Rothfuss uses Elodin’s surprising appearance and mannerisms to convey his eccentric personality.

Direct characterization in the name of the wind

2. Radiance past Catherynne M. Valente

I am always honest virtually my capabilities. I am very pretty, though my prettiness lacks depth and therefore misses beauty by a hair. I have an extremely expressive face that I can contort at will. I am short, but I have a serviceable breast and practically perfect calves. For stage work I have a rich voice which carries well, though information technology is somewhat deeper than the fashion. I can alter it somewhat. I can pass for an American or a Frenchwoman, and I am working on a Muscovite lilt. Perhaps at twenty I shall be a superb dancer. Perhaps at xxx I shall be beautiful. Annihilation is possible.

This passage is an example of direct characterization in a first-person POV (bespeak of view).

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In spite of the starting time sentence of this paragraph, nosotros have no mode of knowing if the narrator is giving an honest assessment—we tin simply see her the way she sees herself.

We observe out that she sees herself as pretty but not quite beautiful (“my prettiness lacks depth,” “I am curt,” “I have a serviceable chest”).

We as well see that she’s confident she tin can adapt to the needs of the stage (“I have a rich voice which carries well… I tin can pass for an American or a Frenchwoman”).

Direct characterization in radiance

three. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

People had difficulty describing him. He was… he was “about.” He was nearly twenty, or about thirty. On Picket reports beyond the continent he was anywhere between, oh, about six anxiety ii inches and v feet ix inches tall, hair all shades from mid-brown to blond, and his lack of distinguishing features included his unabridged face. He was about… average. What people remembered was the article of furniture, things like glasses and mustaches, so he always carried a selection of both. They remembered names and mannerisms, likewise. He had hundreds of those.

Oh, and they remembered that they’d been richer earlier they met him.

This passage is Terry Pratchett’due south description of Moist, an experienced conman and scammer.

Moist’s surface traits, which are described as average in every possible fashion (“His lack of distinguishing features included his unabridged face”), show the reader how well he’s perfected his profession (“They’d been richer before they met him”).

This is a smashing example of a physical description that speaks to something deeper than the surface.

Direct characterization in going postal

4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Bunny, for all his appearance of affable, callous stability, was actually a wildly erratic character. There were any number of reasons for this, but primary amongst them was his complete inability to think well-nigh annihilation before he did it. He sailed through the world guided only past the dim lights of impulse and habit, confident that his course would throw upward no obstacles and so large that they could not be plowed over with sheer force of momentum.

In this passage, Donna Tartt describes Bunny’due south personality.

We learn that he’southward the type of person who makes decisions based on habit rather than forethought (“He sailed through the world guided simply by the dim lights of impulse and habit”).

Tartt also uses indirect characterization in other scenes of
The Secret History
to show us Bunny’s impulsivity, simply this paragraph of straight characterization helps cement that personality trait in a more obvious mode.

Direct characterization in the secret history

v. Gorky Park past Martin Cruz Smith

Wesley was tall, immature and balding, smooth-featured as if rolled like a pebble, with a faint and meaningless expression of affability. He wore a three-piece suit of bluish fabric. Scents of lime and mint came from Wesley’southward mouth, cheeks and armpits. For the entire flight he had crossed his legs and smoked a pipe and answered Arkady’s questions with grunts. There was something awkward and milk-fed most Wesley, similar a dogie.

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Martin Cruz Smith uses sight (“tall, young and balding,” “smooth-featured,” “three-slice suit of bluish fabric”), sound (“answered Arkady’southward questions with grunts”), and even scent (“scents of lime and mint”) to describe Wesley, a CIA operative.

We become a comprehensive mental image of Wesley as an awkward and polish-featured immature man, which sets him autonomously from our pre-existing stereotypes of what a CIA operative might await like.

Direct characterization in Gorky Park

6. Everything I Never Told You lot by Celeste Ng

With Nath gone, Hannah followed Lydia like a puppy, scampering to her door each morning before Lydia’due south clock radio had even gone off, her voice breathless, but short of a pant. Guess what? Lydia, guess what? It was never guessable and never of import: it was raining; at that place were pancakes for breakfast; there was a blue jay in the bandbox tree. Each day, all day, she trailed Lydia suggesting things they could do—Nosotros could play Life, we could watch the Friday Night Movie, we could make Jiffy Pop. All her life, Hannah had hovered at a altitude from her blood brother and sister, and Lydia and Nath had tacitly tolerated their small, awkward moon. At present Lydia noticed a 1000 little things most her sister: the manner she twitched her nose once-twice, fast as a rabbit, when she was talking; the addiction she had of standing on her toes, as if she had invisible high heels.

In this passage, Celeste Ng describes Hannah, the annoying but lovable little sister.

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We see all the ways she begs her older sister Lydia for attention (“Approximate what, Lydia? Approximate what?”), post-obit her around the house.

We besides meet Lydia kickoff to observe her for the first time (“Now Lydia noticed a thousand footling things most her sister”), since this paragraph is told from Lydia’south tertiary-person perspective.

In the process, we larn something virtually both sisters and how their relationship is changing.

Direct characterization in everything I never told you

7. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Bruno, my former true-blue. I haven’t sufficiently described him. Is information technology enough to say he is indescribable? No. Better to try and fail than not to try at all. The soft down of your white hair lightly playing about your scalp like a half-blown dandelion. Many times, Bruno, I accept been tempted to accident on your head and make a wish. Merely a terminal flake of decorum keeps me from information technology. Or perchance I should begin with your acme, which is very brusk. On a good twenty-four hours you barely reach my chest. Or shall I start with the eyeglasses you fished out of a box and claimed as your own, enormous round things that magnify your eyes so that your permanent response appears to be a four.5 on the Richter? They’re women’s glasses, Bruno! I’ve never had the heart to tell you.

In this passage, we see usa a physical clarification of Bruno, the narrator’s best friend, narrated in 2d person.

The traits he chooses to mention are unique and memorable (“your white hair lightly playing near your scalp,” “the eyeglasses you fished out of a box”).

They’re likewise interspersed with commentary from the narrator that brand it articulate how he feels about Bruno—a rare mix of amore and exasperation (“They’re women’s glasses, Bruno!”).

Direct characterization in the history of love

8. Sea Wife by Amity Gaige

Sybil’s face is heart-shaped, wide at the temples, with a small, emphatic mentum. The truth is, it’s her male parent’s face up. Distantly Finnish, midwestern, wide open and friendly. You tin can almost sense the ball fields and the Coca-Cola and the square dances that information technology took to produce that kind of a face.

In this passage, Amity Gaige describes Sybil’s physical appearance, drawing on cultural references (“ball fields,” “Coca-Cola,” “foursquare dances”).

Even though the description mostly focuses on Sybil’due south face, nosotros also become a clear sense of what Sybil’s personality is similar.

Direct characterization in sea wife

9. All the Light We Cannot See past Anthony Doerr

But seven-twelvemonth-old Werner seems to float. He is undersized and his ears stick out and he speaks with a high, sweetness voice; the whiteness of his hair stops people in their tracks. Snowy, milky, chalky. A color that is the absence of color. Every morning he ties his shoes, packs paper inside his glaze equally insulation confronting the cold, and begins interrogating the world. He captures snowflakes, tadpoles, hibernating frogs; he coaxes breadstuff from bakers with none to sell; he regularly appears in the kitchen with fresh milk for the babies. He makes things too: paper boxes, rough biplanes, toy boats with working rudders.

In this passage, Anthony Doerr introduces us to Werner, an unusual kid with white pilus and an extremely curious listen.

Though his physical traits are arresting, it’south Werner’s concrete habits and mannerisms (“he captures snowflakes, tadpoles, hibernating frogs,” “he makes things”) that ultimately prove us what kind of child he is.

Direct characterization in all the light we cannot see

10. Or What You Will past Jo Walton

He had expected her to be passably attractive, with the bloom of a immature girl, but the face she shows when she draws dorsum her veil is like a Madonna painted by a bully master, beautiful and sad and wise. He tin can run into her off-white hair glinting under the cloth draped over her head, and the blackness apparel she wears enhance the elegance of her trim figure. She is certainly young, Orsino thinks, staring at her, but she is ripe like a peach. Y’all would paint her equally summer rather than bound, an orchid rather than a snowdrop, a queen rather than a princess, Juno rather than Diana.

In this passage, Jo Walton shows us this character using a variety of comparisons and similes (“a Madonna,” “a peach,” “an orchid,” “a queen”).

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Through the mental associations we have with each of these comparisons, we become a sense of the grapheme.

Direct characterization in or what you will

How Do You Use Direct Label to Show Your Characters’ Personalities?

When used well, direct characterization can help you lot present a realistic and fully fleshed-out version of your characters.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re using direct label.

What External Traits Do I Demand to Evidence for This Character?

Showing a grapheme’s physical clarification is specially necessary the first time nosotros meet a new character.

Get every bit specific as you lot can. If your character is wearing a dress, tell the states what kind of dress. If your character has red hair, tell us what shade of red.

Ask yourself:

  • What parts of the character’s outward appearance say something most their personality? (e.g. scarred hands, deep wrinkles, lord’s day-tanned peel)
  • What traits does this character take that are specific and memorable? (e.g. shockingly cerise pilus)
  • Do they have any defining gestures? (east.g. biting their nails when they’re nervous)

External traits you need to show

What Internal Traits Do I Need to Prove for This Character?

Direct label is especially of import for information relevant to the graphic symbol’south motivation or growth.

Enquire yourself:

  • What’s this character’due south personality like?
  • What’due south their character arc / transformation going to be?
  • What does this character desire or fear?

How to show internal traits

How Can I Shed Light on Two Characters at One time?

If the story is narrated by some other character, then all instances of direct label should reflect how that character thinks.

For example, the way Cinderella’s stepsisters describe Cinderella would be very unlike from the way Prince Mannerly describes Cinderella.

The sometime might sound envious and fell, while the latter might sound admiring and romantic.

Y’all can, in a sense, draw ii characters at in one case by letting the narrator’south vox color their description.

Say you’re trying to apply straight label to draw a character’southward intelligence.

If this grapheme’southward intelligence makes the narrator feel inferior, you can draw their intelligence in a negative way (“She was a nerdy weirdo”).

If this grapheme’south intelligence makes the narrator feel awed, you tin can describe their intelligence in a positive way (“She was a brilliant scientist”).

Doing and so will tell yous not just that this character is intelligent, but as well how the narrator sees themselves in relation to this character’s intelligence.

Ask yourself:

  • Is this passage of directly narration told through the mind of the narrator, another character, or an anonymous storyteller?
  • How does that grapheme feel about the character being described?
  • What aspects of the grapheme existence described are they about likely to notice, and why?

Final Thoughts

Those are some of our favorite tips for using directly characterization in fiction writing.

What are your favorite means to describe your characters? Allow us know in the comments.


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Which Story Element Most Clearly Shows Direct Characterization

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