Direct vs. Indirect Characterization

Direct Characterization
The author tells readers about characters by
making direct statements about their
Example: The quiet girl and her rambunctious
brother strolled down the path to the beach.
Explanation: The author is directly telling
readers that the girl is quiet and her brother is
EXAMPLE: In Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code
(Colfer)“His bodyguard, Butler, was not quite so
relaxed. But then again, he was never truly at
ease. One did not become one of the world’s
deadliest men by dropping one’s guard.” [pg 5]
EXPLANATION: The author explains that
Artemis Fowl’s bodyguard is not relaxed or at
ease, but always on guard.
EXAMPLE: In The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi)
“How shall I describe the person I once was? At the age of thirteen I
was very much a girl, having not yet begun to take the shape,
much less the heart, of a woman. Still, my family dressed me as a
young woman, bonnet covering my beautiful hair, full skirts, high
button shoes, and, you may be sure, white gloves. I certainly
wanted to be a lady. It was not just my ambition; it was my destiny.
I embraced it wholly, gladly, with not an untoward thought of
anything else. In other words, I think that at the time of these
events I was not anything more or less than what I appeared to be:
an acceptable, ordinary girl of parents in good standing.” [pp 1-2]
EXPLANATION: Charlotte Doyle tells readers, in her own voice, what
she was like, what she aspired to be and how she acted at the start
of the story. Immediately, readers get a sense that she is no longer
like this – that the events of the story have changed her.
Indirect Characterization
The author shows what a character is like through
his/her speech, thoughts, effect on others, actions
and looks.
EXAMPLE: The girl strolled undetected toward the
sandy expanse of the beach while her brother
sprinted towards the water’s edge kicking up sand
onto nearby sunbathers and startling people all
around with the tunes blaring from his handheld
EXPLANATION: Although the author does not tell
us that the girl is quiet and her brother is
rambunctious, we can infer this through their
EXAMPLE: from Criss Cross (Perkins)“There wasn’t
quite enough room for Hector’s chair. His chair
was a peninsula, jutting out into the nonexistent
space between tables, in the position where a dog
might sit to wait patiently for scraps.”[Pg. 14]
EXPLANATION: Perkins builds an image of Hector
as being a “tag-along” to his sister Rowanne by
showing similarities between his status at the table
with her friends, and the proper place of a dog.
Identify which passage is direct and which is
A. Ed Johnson scratched his head in confusion as the sales rep explained
Dralco’s newest engine performance diagnostic computer. The old
mechanic hated modern electronics, preferring the old days when all he
needed was a stack of manuals and a good set of tools.
B. “That Ed Johnson,” said Anderson, watching the old mechanic scratch his
head in confusion as the sales rep explained Dralco’s newest engine
performance diagnostic computer. “He hasn’t got a clue about modern
electronics. Give him a good set of tools and a stack of yellowing manuals
with a carburetor needing repair, and he’d be happy as a hungry frog in a
Identify which passage is direct and
which is indirect.
A. Julie held up six different outfits in front of the mirror and pondered
which would go best with her navy blue shoes, pastel eye shadow and the
diamond earrings she’d already procured from her overflowing vanity.
After ninety minutes of mixing and matching, and cell-phoning her sister
three times for advice, Julie finally made up her mind. She’d give the navy
blue skirt and white sweater a try, hoping Trent would love it
B. Julie owned a multitude of outfits and accessories, and it always took her
forever to decide which combination might impress Trent. As usual, she
called her sister several times for advice. After doing so, Julie decided to
give the navy blue skirt with the white sweater a try.

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