Other Literary Concepts:
Alliteration | Repetition | Point of View | Irony | Connotation | Plot | Personification

Characterization consists of all the techniques a writer uses to create and develop a character or characters. When you read a book, you find out about a character either through direct or indirect characterization. Direct characterization is what the author tells you directly. For example:

Bob is very intelligent.

Indirect characterization is not so easy to infer stuff from. However, we humans seem to have a knack for it. Indirect characterization means finding out about a character through one or more of the following, which can be remembered using the mnemonic BOAST:

  • Behaviors/Actions: How does the character act? What does the character do?
  • Others' Thoughts: What do other people think about the character? Do they think that the character is cool or stupid?
  • Appearance: What does the character look like? Does the character toss on dirty, wrinkled clothes and go to work, or does he/she wear only the best-looking clothes?
  • Speech: What does the character say? Does he/she talk "like, um, ya know, like this" or "due to the partially inconspicious fact that the hydraulics system is malfunctioning, and consequently..."?
  • Their Thoughts: What does the character think about themselves? Do they think they're stupid, or are they overconfident?

Here is an example of indirect characterization:

Bob designed a spaceship that travels faster than the speed of light, all in one night!

From this example, you can infer that Bob is very intelligent.

Char`ac*ter*i*za"tion (?), n.

The act or process of characterizing.


© Webster 1913.

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