Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tutor Tuesday - Looking at Characters

First of all, happy 7th birthday to my little boy!!!! Can't believe how old he's getting :) 

Second, welcome to Tutor Tuesdays :D With the release of my non-fiction book fast approaching, (and since I closed down my other blog) I decided I'd devote one day a week to non-fiction matters, including writing tips for essays, papers and other NF things (memoirs, narratives, and anything else you can think of). Just a little non-fiction info to spice up the place :D

Our recent awesome Blogging Experiment topic (on Writing Compelling Characters) reminded me of a post I did on my other blog about focusing on characters when writing analysis essays.

If you have to write a book report or an essay analyzing a work of literature (or even a film), looking at the characters in the piece is an excellent way to start.

Characters are one of the most important, if not THE most important, element in any work of literature. Without a character, there is no story. Even if the story is about a frog...that frog is your main character. So, characters are a great element to look at when analyzing a work of literature for a paper or essay. Here are some questions you could ask about the characters in the story:

  • Who are the characters?
  • Who is the main character?
  • Who is the main villain?
  • What qualities/vices/characteristics/quirks/mannerisms do these characters have?
  • What do these characteristics do for a particular character?
  • What is the author trying to show with a certain character? For example, is the extreme evilness of the main villain supposed to symbolize the evil side of mankind? Does it work? Why or why not? 
  • Do the characters personify anything? Qualities/characteristics/feelings? For example, if you were analyzing a story about a girl named Hope who went up against a villain named Dr. Evil, do these characters exhibit the qualities of hope and evil? Is Hope an optimistic person, etc?
  • What flaws do the characters have? Or are they too perfect?
  • Are the characters believable? Can you relate to them? Are they likable, intriguing, mysterious? How do these qualities affect the story?
Look at the characters from every possible angle and analyze what each character brings to the story. Think about why they are a part of the story, what their presence does, or does not, do for the story.

This also applies to fiction - take a look at your own stories and ask yourself the questions above. Analyzing your characters the way an English student writing an essay would is a great way to make sure they are fleshed out, well-rounded, unique, and doing the job you need them to do.

Have you ever given your characters a good analysis?


Christine Fonseca said...

Great post. And yes, I examine my characters in much detail...all the time!

Matthew Rush said...

Great advice! Thanks Michelle.

Mary said...

Not sure if they analyze me or I them but we really get to know one another. It's they only way.

Melissa said...

Really great advice. I need to remember this next semester when I`m taking more literature courses.