Five Ways to Describe Characters

Interior characterization involves showing or telling. Aspects of your characters’ personalities and lives. You do this through their interactions with their immediate surroundings, their body language, their thoughts, and with dialogue. You can use all of these in a paragraph.

  1. The author tells us who the character is, and what she does. Example: Savannah paints pictures from memory.
  2. Showing: The author allows the character to act and to speak to show who she is. Example: Kelly tosses out her khaki pants and shorts into a donation box. “I hate khakis,” she said.
  3. Thinking: The author shows the characters through their thoughts by allowing us to see what lies behind their actions and their words. What characters think about and how they think can reveal a great deal about them. Example: The lady thought, The situation wouldn’t have gotten out of hand if we had the proper equipment.

Exterior characterization involves using their behavior towards other characters and their attitude to their worlds to describe them.

  1. The others: the author shows us who the characters are by the way they treat other people  and the way others treat them. Your character may be treated with fear or respect or disdain. For example: She may treat others with kindness or indifference. Her prejudices, fears, and beliefs will also affect the way she treats others.
  2. The world outside: The author uses the way characters look at the world around them to allow us a glimpse into their state of mind. A happy character may see autumn leaves as beautiful. A sad character may be depressed by the death of the leaves. Your choice of images and words can create interesting moods for different characters, when you are in their viewpoints.

There are many other ways to show characters, but I hope these simples tips give you a solid starting point.


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