Direct and Indirect Characterization

Direct Characterization

Direct characterization is an author’s tool to tell you directly what a character is like.  You will often see direct characterizations in stories but overlook them because they are usually quite common when an author introduces a new character.

Direct Characterization Example #1

Charles Dunford is a caring man.

Rather than being shown that Charles Dunford is a caring man (by telling a story of how he saved a cat) the author opts to tell us directly what type of person he is.  That way, we expect him or her to act in that manner throughout the story.

Direct Characterization Example #2

He does not lie to his parents.

Again, we expect that our character will be honest to his parents.

Indirect Characterization

We see indirect characterization often in short stories because a character’s action define the character.  With indirect characterization we must infer (guess or conclude) from the characters actions what type of person he or she is.

Indirect Characterization Example #1

For example,

Chris threw the rock as hard as he could at the mail truck.

Just from this simple sentence we can infer so many things.

  1. Chris is angry (I mean he threw a rock at a mail truck!)
  2. Chris cannot control his
    emotions (I know its only one sentence but can you prove other wise?)
  3. Chris is a trouble maker (It
    can only mean trouble if you are throwing a rock at a federal vehicle.)

With indirect characterization, we must assume things and make great leaps at times to characterize someone.  That is why, in literature, there are so many people arguing over character motives, because we, as the reader, are left to interpret a great deal of information any way we want!

How about this example,

Indirect Characterization Example #2

Lets say your friend calls up your boy/girlfriend and tells them that you have been cheating on him/her with someone.

You can assume or infer  a million things here:

  1. Your friend is jealous that you have a boyfriend or
    girlfriend and is trying to keep you all to his/her self
  2. Your friend likes your
    boy/girlfriend and is trying to break you up
  3. Your friend actually saw you
    cheating on the person and is being honest.
  4. Your friend doesn’t like you
    anymore for some reason and is trying to sabotage your relationship.
  5. Etc.

The list goes on and on.  Being able to point out a time when there are indirect characterizations or highlighting them, makes it easier to come back and quote if necessary to back a up a point (like the ones listed above).



A theme is, quite simply, a reoccurring idea that the author discusses in an essay, short story,novel or poem.  Because a theme is reoccurring, when your teacher or professor asks you to explore a theme in a novel, you should have plenty of examples.  Avoid choosing something very specific where it may have only occurred once.

Along with being reoccurring, themes are generally broad. For example, a book about war will probably discuss the effects of violence or, simply, violence.

Many things other than books have themes and correspond to theme in literature; for example, parties often have themes (aliens, hip-hops stars, circus, western).  If there is a western theme, you of course would find people wearing cowboy boots, cowboy hats, revolvers, spurs, chewing tobacco, etc.

Unfortunately, themes in literature aren’t like being invited to a themed party.  The theme is never laid out in front of you,”This book will be about violence.”

Reading a novel is more like being invited to a theme party but without knowing what the theme will be.  However, you have all the evidence in front of you: cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and spurs.

Lets try an example shall we?


The main character of a story is nervous about going to a party. His best friend is not as shy and asks this girl on a date to the party,leaving our main character to go by himself. Although the girl he likes is going, she doesn’t have a date and is waiting to be asked.  Finally, the party comes and the girl confronts our main character on why he is alone.  He replies that he was too frightened to ask the girl he wanted to ask.  The girl tells our main character that he should have more confidence and ask.  He finally musters up the courage and asks her to go out with him.  She declines, having already accepted an offer from his best friend.

So what themes are in this example?

Betrayal– the best friend asks out his best friend’s interest.

Confidence/shyness – Our main character lost out because he was not confident.

Destroying Friendship – main character’s friend destroys the friendship by taking the girl.

Skimming – Reading for information

Skimming is one of the most underrated skills available to students.  Frankly, I am surprised its not taught and utilized more often.

Students often feel overwhelmed by the amount of reading one has to do in order to write a paper, fill out a worksheet, or obtain useful information.  However, if they only had the skill of skimming, and skimming with spped and accuracy their lives would be a whole lot easier.

Because the purpose of this blog is to help make your work and your academic life easier, I have come up with a few steps which, with a little practice, should  make reading for information a bit easier.

By no means should skimming be used as a source for close reading, reading the story, poem or play profoundly will make you a better student and, later on, a better skimmer.

Tip #1

Train your eyes to see the whole page and move quickly.

Exercise 1
Look at any regular page of text.  Scan each line as quickly as you can reading the first word and the last word only. Do this for the entire page as quickly as you can.
Exercise 2
Look at any regular page of text.  Move your eyes up and down looking at each word in the top sentence and the last sentence of the page.  Do this as quickly as possible.
Exercise 3
Open up your vision field.  What do I mean by this?  Rather than focus on one single word try to look at the whole sentence.  (Move the book away from your face if you want). Your goal here should be to see and scan as much as you can in one swipe of your eyes.With enough practice, you could scan whole paragraphs, in one swipe.


Tip #2

Search for key words.  When you scan a text for information, you should already have something in mind.  Searching for key words speeds up the process because you can, in a sense, skip every other word until you come across a word that may or may not have something to do with your desired subject.

Try it with a newspaper first or news article online. Keep in mind you want to find out Who? What?  Where? And Why?

 Tip #3

Practice.  The more you practice the better you willbecome.  When you are reading for information, try it out.  I promise you will be a lot happier you did.

Prefixes – via

There are plenty of times we look at a word and get an idea of when it took place, if its good or bad, nig or small with or without, etc.  Usually we can tell this just by looking at the beginning of the word or what the learned call prefixes.

See how many you can recognize.

Prefix Meaning Example
a-, an- without amoral
ante- before antecedent
anti- against anticlimax
auto- self autopilot
circum- around circumvent
co- with copilot
com-, con- with companion,
contra- against contradict
de- off,
away from
dis- not disappear
en- put
ex- out
of, former
extra- beyond,
more than
hetero- different heterosexual
homo- same homonym
hyper- over,
il-, im-, in-, ir- not,
immoral, inconsiderate, irresponsible
in- into insert
inter- between intersect
intra- between intravenous
macro- large macroeconomics
micro- small microscope
mono- one monocle
non- not,
omni- all,
post- after postmortem
pre-, pro- before,
sub- under submarine
syn- same
trans- across transmit
tri- three tricycle
un- not unfinished
uni- one unicorn




Common Roots – via

Knowing roots can do you a world of good in reading.  And it has more practical uses, such as helping you pass the HESPA and doing well on the SATs.

Do your self a favor, try and memorize as much as you can of these.  You can always find more!

(“L” means its a Latin root and “G” means its a Greek root)

-ast(er)-(G) star asteroid,
hear audible,
self automatic,
good benefit,
life biography,
time chronic, synchronize
say dictate,
earth geography,
write autograph,
-jus- (L)
law jury,
-logue- (L)
thought logic,
light lucid,
hand manual,
-mend- (L)
order demand,
-mit- (L)
send missile, transmission
all omnivorous
feel empathy,
love philosophy,
sound phonics,
light photograph,
carry export,
-script- (L)
write ascribe,
-sent- (L)
feel resent,
earth terrain,
empty evacuate,
-vis- (L)
see visible,