How to Write a Character Sketch for Literature Class


A character sketch is an essay that takes an in-depth look at the traits of a literary character, generally from a fictional piece. The higher-level thinking a sketch requires makes it a common assignment in literature classes. A well-written character sketch goes beyond a simple description of appearance or plot summary and analyzes the character’s personality and behavior.

The Character's Appearance

  • While a character’s appearance is never the focus of a literary sketch, it is still important to think about. As you read, take notes on details of physical appearance, such as height, weight, hair color and clothing style. Although these things comprise a basic description, they may help to explain a pertinent part of the character. For example, a character may dye her hair to hide her identity. A very tall character may feel embarrassed about his height. Physical descriptions are not accidentally written by the author, so consider what they may tell you about the character.

The Character's Behavior

  • Examine the character's actions. How a character behaves can reveal a great deal. Note the things he does alone, as compared to his behavior in public or around friends. A character may act differently depending on where he is, so think about the reasons for that difference. Maybe he reads constantly when at home but never even looks at a book when his friends are around. This may be because he wants to fit in with others who have no interest in the things he enjoys. Do not just list the behaviors, but try to uncover the motivations for the character’s actions. If provided, reviewing the background or life history of the character may help.

The Character's Words and Thoughts

  • Record the character's words and thoughts. She may use certain sayings or words regularly. She may be very sarcastic. She might have a specific style to her speech, such as using brief, concise responses or long, rambling sentences. How the character speaks may reveal part of her personality, but what she thinks may reveal something else. What a character says is not always what she thinks. Analyze the differences between words and thoughts if there are any to determine whether the character is being honest.

Other Characters' Opinions

  • Although a character sketch focuses on one particular character and his personality traits, reviewing what other characters think about him will add another level to the analysis. Others’ opinions showcase how the character is received. The impression that he gives to others is important, because he may think differently about himself. While he sees himself as insignificant, for example, others may see him as popular and outgoing. As the reader, you must determine which view is the most accurate and account for any discrepancy.

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