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Characterization or characterisation is the representation of persons (or other beings or creatures) in narrative and dramatic works of art. This representation may include direct methods like the attribution of qualities in description or commentary, and indirect (or "dramatic") methods inviting readers to infer qualities from characters' actions, dialogue, or appearance. Such a personage is called a character. [1] Character is a literary element. [2]

A narrative is a report of connected events, real or imaginary, presented in a sequence of written or spoken words, or still or moving images, or both. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to tell", which is derived from the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled".

Drama Artwork intended for performance, formal type of literature

Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance: a play, opera, mime, ballet, etc, performed in a theatre, or on radio or television. Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle's Poetics —the earliest work of dramatic theory.

The arts Human expression, usually influenced by culture

The arts refers to the theory and physical expression of creativity found in human societies and cultures. Major constituents of the arts include literature, performing arts, and visual arts.



The term characterization was introduced in the 19th century. [3] Aristotle promoted the primacy of plot over characters, that is, a plot-driven narrative, arguing in his Poetics that tragedy "is a representation, not of men, but of action and life." This view was reversed in the 19th century, when the primacy of the character, that is, a character-driven narrative, was affirmed first with the realist novel, and increasingly later with the influential development of psychology.

Aristotle philosopher in ancient Greece

Aristotle was a philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, the founder of the Lyceum and the Peripatetic school of philosophy and Aristotelian tradition. Along with his teacher Plato, he is considered the "Father of Western Philosophy". His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.

Poetics is the theory of literary forms and literary discourse. It may refer specifically to the theory of poetry, although some speakers use the term so broadly as to denote the concept of "theory" itself.

Psychology is the science of behavior and mind. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope. Psychologists seek an understanding of the emergent properties of brains, and all the variety of phenomena linked to those emergent properties. As a social science it aims to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.

Direct vs. indirect

There are two ways an author can convey information about a character:

An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book or play, and is also considered a writer. More broadly defined, an author is "the person who originated or gave existence to anything" and whose authorship determines responsibility for what was created.

Direct or explicit characterization
The author literally tells the audience what a character is like. This may be done via the narrator, another character or by the character themselves.
Indirect or implicit characterization
The audience must infer for themselves what the character is like through the character's thoughts, actions, speech (choice of words, manner of speaking), physical appearance, mannerisms and interaction with other characters, including other characters' reactions to that particular person.

In drama

Characters in theater, television, and film differ from those in novels in that an actor may interpret the writer's description and dialogue in their own unique way to add new layers and depth to a character. This can be seen when critics compare, for example, the 'Lady Macbeths' or 'Heathcliffs' of different actors. Another major difference in drama is that it is not possible to 'go inside the character's head' in the way possible in a novel, meaning this method of character exposition is unavailable. Still another is that in drama, a character usually can be seen and heard and need not be described.

In mythology

Mythological characters have been depicted to be formulaic and are a part of a classification that consists of several differing, limited archetypes, which is type of component. Multiple components, such as archetypes and other elements of a story, together form a type of configuration that results in fully realized myth. These configurations can be mixed and matched together to form new types of configurations, and humans have never tired of using these configurations for their mythologies. This is an idea that uses the kaleidoscopic model on narrating for mythology. Another perspective holds that humans when reading or hearing a mythology do not dissect it into various parts, that when physically together humans do not tell stories by using limited components in a configuration, and that people and their cultures do change and thus this leads to new developments in stories, including characters. [4]

Categorization is something that humans and other organisms do: "doing the right thing with the right kind of thing." The doing can be nonverbal or verbal. For humans, both concrete objects and abstract ideas are recognized, differentiated, and understood through categorization. Objects are usually categorized for some adaptive or pragmatic purpose. Categorization is grounded in the features that distinguish the category's members from nonmembers. Categorization is important in learning, prediction, inference, decision making, language, and many forms of organisms' interaction with their environments.

Mythological characters have influence that extends to recent works of literature. The poet Platon Oyunsky draws heavily from the native mythology of his homeland, the Yakut region in Russia and the Sahka people. In several of his stories, he depicts a main character that follows historic examples of heroism, but fashions the main character using Soviet examples of heroism, even using real life figures, such as Stalin, Lenin, etc. in a new type of mythology. These figures often play the lead in tragic stories full of sacrifice. [5] An example of this includes his character Tygyn, who on his quest for peace determines that the only way for peace to exist is to use military strength to enforce. [6] The use of mythology is used in Shakespeare's Hamlet as a device to parallel the characters and to reflect back on them there role in the story, such as the use of the Niobe myth and the twin sister of Gertrude. [7]

Platon Oyunsky Sakha Soviet writer, linguist, statesman

Platon Oyunsky (Russian: Платон Ойунский;, pseudonym of Platon Alekseevich Sleptsov was a Soviet Yakut statesman, writer and translator, seen as one of the founders of modern Yakut literature. He took part in the creation of the national written language and in the cultural building of the modern Yakut nation. Oyunsky is one of organizers of the Yakut autonomous republic, the Union of writers of Yakutia, Language and literature scientific research Institute.

Character archetypes

The psychologist Carl Jung identified twelve primary 'original patterns' of the human psyche. He believed that these reside in the collective subconscious of people across cultural and political boundaries. These twelve archetypes are often cited in fictional characters. 'Flat' characters may be considered so because they stick to a single archetype without deviating, whereas 'complex' or 'realistic' characters will combine several archetypes, with some being more dominant than others – as people are in real life. Jung's twelve archetypes are: the Innocent, the Orphan, the Hero, the Caregiver, the Explorer, the Rebel, the Lover, the Creator, the Jester, the Sage, the Magician, and the Ruler. [8]

Carl Jung Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist

Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology.

Character's voice

A character's voice is his or her manner of speech. [9] Different characters use different vocabularies and rhythms of speech. For example, some characters are talkative, others taciturn. The way a character speaks can be a powerful way of revealing the character’s personality. In theory, a reader should be able to identify which character is speaking simply from the way he or she talks. [10] When a character voice has been created that is rich and distinctive, the writer can get away with omitting many speech attributions (tag lines). [11]

The manner of a character’s speech is to literature what an actor’s appearance and costume are to cinema. [12] In fiction, what a character says, as well as how he or she says it, makes a strong impression on the reader. [13] Each character should have his or her distinctive voice. [14] To differentiate characters in fiction, the writer must show them doing and saying things, but a character must be defined by more than one single topic of conversation or by the character’s accent. The character will have other interests or personality quirks as well. [15] Although individual temperament is the largest determinant of what a character says, it is not the only one. The writer can make the characters’ dialogue more realistic and interesting by considering several factors affecting how people speak: ethnicity, family background, region, gender, education, and circumstances. [16] Words characterize by their diction, cadence, complexity, and attitude. [17] Mannerisms and catch-phrases can help too. Considering the degree of formality in spoken language is also useful. Characters who spend a lot of their lives in a more formal setting often use a more formal language all the time, while others never do. [18] Tone of voice, volume, rate of delivery, vocabulary, inflection, emphasis, pitch, topics of conversation, idioms, colloquialisms, and figures of speech: all of these are expressions of who the character is on the inside. [19] A character’s manner of speech must grow from the inside out. The speaking is how his or her essential personality leaks out for the world to see; it is not the sum total of his or her personality. [20]

See also


  1. Baldick (2004 , p. 37)
  2. Literature (2015 , p. 353)
  3. Harrison (1998, pp. 51-2)
  4. Georges, Robert (1979). "The Kaleidoscopic Model of Narrating: A Characterization and a Critique". The Journal of American Folklore. 92 (364): 164–171. doi:10.2307/539386. JSTOR   539386.
  5. Romanova, Lidia Nikolaevna (2018-09-30). "Myth Creation in the Poetic Evolution of P. A. Oyunsky". Journal of History Culture and Art Research. 7 (3): 280–292. doi:10.7596/taksad.v7i3.1729. ISSN   2147-0626 via Academic Search Complete.
  6. Myreeva, Anastasiya Nikitichna (2018-09-30). "Folklore and Epic Traditions in Yakut Novels between Two Ages". Journal of History Culture and Art Research. 7 (3): 460–468. doi:10.7596/taksad.v7i3.1737. ISSN   2147-0626 via Academic Search Complete.
  7. McCollum, Cayla (2012). "Mirrors: Shakespeare's use of Mythology in Hamlet". Journal of the Wooden O Symposium. 12: 114–119. ISSN   1539-5758 via Academic Search Complete.
  8. Golden, Carl. "The 12 Common Archetypes". SoulCraft. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  9. Gerke (2010 , p. 70)
  10. Hamand (2009 , pp. 73–74)
  11. Gerke (2010 , p. 114)
  12. Gerke (2010 , p. 70)
  13. Kress (2005 , p. 104)
  14. Lamb (2008 , pp. 184–185)
  15. Gerke (2010 , p. 68)
  16. Kress (2005 , pp. 106–108)
  17. Kress (2005 , p. 179)
  18. Hamand (2009 , pp. 73–74)
  19. Gerke (2010 , pp. 70–71)
  20. Gerke (2010 , p. 70)

Related Research Articles

The concept of an archetype appears in areas relating to behavior, historical psychological theory, and literary analysis. An archetype can be:

  1. a statement, pattern of behavior, or prototype (model) which other statements, patterns of behavior, and objects copy or emulate.
  2. a Platonic philosophical idea referring to pure forms which embody the fundamental characteristics of a thing in Platonism
  3. a collectively-inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., that is universally present, in individual psyches, as in Jungian psychology
  4. a constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting, or mythology. In various seemingly unrelated cases in classic storytelling, media, etc., characters or ideas sharing similar traits recur.

A character is a person or other being in a narrative. The character may be entirely fictional or based on a real-life person, in which case the distinction of a "fictional" versus "real" character may be made. Derived from the ancient Greek word χαρακτήρ, the English word dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of "a part played by an actor" developed. Character, particularly when enacted by an actor in the theatre or cinema, involves "the illusion of being a human person". In literature, characters guide readers through their stories, helping them to understand plots and ponder themes. Since the end of the 18th century, the phrase "in character" has been used to describe an effective impersonation by an actor. Since the 19th century, the art of creating characters, as practiced by actors or writers, has been called characterisation.

Villain evil character in a story

A villain is an evil fictional character, whether based on a historical narrative or one of literary fiction. Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines him or her as "a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; or a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot". Its structural purpose is to serve as the opposition of the hero character and their motives or evil actions drive a plot along. In contrast to the hero, who is defined by their feats of ingenuity and bravery and their pursuit of justice and the greater good, a villain is often defined by their acts of cruelty, cunning and displays immoral behavior that can oppose or perverse justice. The antonym of a villain is a hero.

Narrative exposition is the insertion of background information within a story or narrative; for example, information about the setting, characters' backstories, prior plot events, historical context, etc. In a specifically literary context, exposition appears in the form of expository writing embedded within the narrative. Exposition is one of four rhetorical modes, along with description, argumentation, and narration, as elucidated by Alexander Bain and John Genung. Each of the rhetorical modes is present in a variety of forms, and each has its own purpose and conventions. There are several ways to accomplish exposition.

A plot twist is a literary technique that introduces a radical change in the direction or expected outcome of the plot in a work of fiction. When it happens near the end of a story, it is known as a twist or surprise ending. It may change the audience's perception of the preceding events, or introduce a new conflict that places it in a different context. A plot twist may be foreshadowed, to prepare the audience to accept it. There are a variety of methods used to execute a plot twist, such as withholding information from the audience or misleading them with ambiguous or false information.

Fantasy literature

Fantasy literature is literature set in an imaginary universe, often but not always without any locations, events, or people from the real world. Magic, the supernatural and magical creatures are common in many of these imaginary worlds. It is a story that children and adults can read.

Fantasy tropes

Fantasy tropes are a specific type of literary tropes that occur in fantasy fiction. Worldbuilding, plot, and characterization have many common conventions. Literary fantasy works operate using these tropes, while others use them in a revisionist manner, making the tropes over for various reasons such as for comic effect, and to create something fresh.

A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story. If a story has a character arc, the character begins as one sort of person and gradually transforms into a different sort of person in response to changing developments in the story. Since the change is often substantive and leading from one personality trait to a diametrically opposite trait, the geometric term arc is often used to describe the sweeping change. In most stories, lead characters and protagonists are the characters most likely to experience character arcs, although it is possible for lesser characters to change as well. A driving element of the plots of many stories is that the main character seems initially unable to overcome opposing forces, possibly because they lack skills or knowledge or resources or friends. To overcome such obstacles, main character must change, possibly by learning new skills, to arrive at a higher sense of self-awareness or capability. Main characters can achieve such self-awareness by interacting with their environment, by enlisting the help of mentors, by changing their viewpoint, or by some other method.

Fiction writing is the composition of non-factual prose texts. Fictional writing often is produced as a story meant to entertain or convey an author's point of view. The result of this may be a short story, novel, novella, screenplay, or drama, which are all types of fictional writing styles. Different types of authors practice fictional writing, including novelists, playwrights, short story writers, radio dramatists and screenwriters.

Show, don't tell is a technique used in various kinds of texts to allow the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author's exposition, summarization, and description. It avoids adjectives describing the author's analysis, but instead describes the scene in such a way that the reader can draw his or her own conclusions. The technique applies equally to nonfiction and all forms of fiction, literature including Haiku and Imagism poetry in particular, speech, movie making, and playwriting.

The setting is both the time and geographic location within a narrative, either nonfiction or fiction. A literary element, the setting helps initiate the main backdrop and mood for a story. Setting has been referred to as story world or milieu to include a context beyond the immediate surroundings of the story. Elements of setting may include culture, historical period, geography, and hour. Along with the plot, character, theme, and style, setting is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.

In literature, writing style is the manner of expressing thought in language characteristic of an individual, period, school, or nation. Thus, style is a term that may refer, at one and the same time, to both conventions that go beyond the individual writer and to singular aspects of individual writing. Beyond the essential elements of spelling, grammar, and punctuation, writing style is the choice of words, sentence structure, and paragraph structure, used to convey the meaning effectively. The former are referred to as rules, elements, essentials, mechanics, or handbook; the latter are referred to as style, or rhetoric. The rules are about what a writer does; style is about how the writer does it. While following the rules drawn from established English usage, a writer has great flexibility in how to express a concept. The point of good writing style is to

In literature and other artistic media, a mode is an unspecific critical term usually designating a broad but identifiable kind of literary method, mood, or manner that is not tied exclusively to a particular form or genre. Examples are the satiric mode, the ironic, the comic, the pastoral, and the didactic.

A fiction-writing mode is a manner of writing with its own set of conventions regarding how, when, and where it should be used.

Les Edgerton is an American author of nineteen books, including two about writing fiction: Finding Your Voice and Hooked. He also writes short stories, articles, essays, novels, and screenplays.

Description is the pattern of narrative development that aims to make vivid a place, object, character, or group. Description is one of four rhetorical modes, along with exposition, argumentation, and narration. In practice it would be difficult to write literature that drew on just one of the four basic modes.

Transitions in fiction are words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or punctuation that may be used to signal various changes in a story, including changes in time, location, point-of-view character, mood, tone, emotion, and pace. Transitions are sometimes listed as one of various fiction-writing modes.

In literature, pace, or pacing is the speed at which a story is told—not necessarily the speed at which the story takes place. The number of words needed to write about a certain event does not depend upon how much time the event takes to happen; it depends upon how important that moment is to the story. The pace is determined by the length of the scenes, how fast the action moves, and how quickly the reader is provided with information. It is also sometimes dictated by the genre of the story: comedies move faster than dramas; action adventures move faster than suspense. A dragging pace is characteristic of many novels turned down by publishers, and of some that find their way into print but not into the hearts and recommendations of readers. Most rejected manuscripts move too slowly, encouraging readers to put them down.

In literature, action is the physical movement of the characters.