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Methods of characterization

All stories are about characters. Without something happening and someone to whom is happen, there is no story. When a story really works well for the reader, the characters can seem very real, even though they are not. A writer creates this effect by a skilful use of characterization techniques.

The author can use different methods:

• description (the character's appearance, clothes, gestures, body language, etc);

• the character's own speech

• he character's inner speech


• the character's behaviour »

• the reaction to the character of other characters

• the character's thoughts and feelings.


In other words, the methods used by the author can be:

×direct (when the author himself tells us what this or that character is like)

×indirect (when the characters are revealed through their speech, actions, behavior).


The two methods are often combined. They may also be used in contrast, when the author consciously misleads the reader first describings character in a certain way and then making him act in a striking contrast to that description, so that he is revealed in a new and unexpected light.

Types of character

Round and flat

Round characters, like real people, have complex personalities. They can have many qualities, they show emotional and intellectual depth and are capable of growing and changing. Major characters in fiction are usually round.

Flat characters represent a single characteristic. They are the miser, the bully, the jealous lover, the endless optimist. Flat characters are usually minor characters. However, the term 'flat' should not be confused with 'insignificant' or 'badly drawn'.

Dynamic and static

Dynamic characterschange as a result of the experiences they have. (For ex.. Ashenden in "Cakes and Ale»)

Static characters remain unchanged by the events of the story. They do not learn from their experience.



What methods of characterization does the author use? Are they predominantly direct or indirect?

Does the author reveal the character directly or indirectly, or does he use both techniques?

Is he a round or a flat character?

Is he dynamic or static?

What does the way the character speaks reveal about his character'? Social background?. Education?

What information does the way the character behaves provide?

Is he similar to or different from other characters in the story? How does he relate to the other characters?

Has the setting shaped the character's personality? Does the setting reflect his mood or emotional state?

Does the character's name have any importance, relevance or associations9 (If a character has a 'speaking' name.)




Setting is the time and space in which the action takes place. The time could be a particular year a specific season, a time of day, or a historical period. The place could be anywhere — from a bustling city to a deserted tropical island.

In addition to describing the time and location of a story, setting details often reveal information about the characters' lives, their occupations, and their beliefs.

Setting may also play a more active role by creating conflicts for the characters or by influencing their decisions and lifestyles.

Some settings are relatively unimportant. They serve simply as a decorative backdrop helping the reader to visualise the action and adding authenticity to the story. Other settings are closely linked to the meaning of the work: the author focuses on elements of setting to create atmosphere or mood, or the setting plays a major role in shaping the characters' identity and destiny. Broadly speaking, if the setting is described in detail, it's important. If the setting is sketched briefly, it is either of little importance, or the writer wishes us to think that the action could take place anywhere and at any time.

In George Orwell's novel 1984, the country is run by a government that monitors citizens' every move and demands loyalty to its leader— Big Brother. As you read this excerpt, pay attention to the description of this society. In what kind of world does this story take place? How might the setting create conflicts for the characters?

Outside, even through the shut window pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no color in anything except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The blàñê-mustachio'd face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston's own. Down at street level another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind... In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a blue-bottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the Police Patrol, snooping into people's windows. The patrols did not matter however. Only the Thought Police mattered.



What is the setting of the work in time and space?

Is the setting briefly sketched or is it described in detail?

Are the descriptions of setting based on visual images?

Is the language used in the descriptions poetic?

Through whose eyes is the setting seen? Does the setting reveal the characters' state of mind?

Does the setting:

a) contribute towards creating mood and atmosphere?

b) influence the characters behavior?

c) reinforce the main themes of the work'?

At what time of day/year does most of the action take place? Is this relevant?



To create a setting that stays with you long after a story ends, a writer paints pictures with words With the right choice of details and language, a writer can transport you to any scene and affect how you about a story.

Imagery consists of words and phrases that recreate sensory experiences for readers. Rather than describing every aspect of a setting, a writer may use sensory details—words and phrases that appeal to the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch—to help you visualize a scene. For example, in the 1984 excerpt on the previous page, Orwell uses phrases like these to appeal to the senses of sight and hearing: eddies of wind were whirling dust, another poster . . . flapped fitfully in the wind.

Armed with these details, your imagination fills in (he rest of the scene. While Orwell does not mention anxious people and wailing sirens, you can picture these details as part of the setting.

A writer also uses imagery and setting details to create the mood, or atmosphere, of a story.Whether is lighthearted, hopeful, or mysterious, a story's mood can affect your emotional reaction to the characters and events.

For example, the bleak, eerie mood established in 1984 might prompt you to sympathize with the characters as you are drawn into their unsettling world.



The author's attitude towards the subject of his work is called the lone. It is conveyed by the choice of words, their connotative meanings (what they suggest or imply or call to mind) and the images they conjure up.

Date: 2015-12-17; view: 5184

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