Direct characterization is a literary device used to describe a character directly. It is the opposite of indirect characterization.

Characterization is a crucial element in fiction writing, as it helps the reader to identify with the characters and engage in the story.

Direct characterization can be accomplished through dialogue, actions, thoughts, or physical descriptions. Direct characterization is useful when authors are not interested in developing their characters fully over time.

Instead, they use direct characterization to highlight one aspect of a character’s personality or directly contrast him with another character. Some authors use direct characterization to create a sense of mystery or suspense around their characters.


direct characterization

What Is direct characterization?

Direct characterization is the process by which a writer reveals to the audience the personality of one or more of the characters in a story.

It is done through the use of dialogue and action, but also through specific details about a character’s appearance and personality.

The purpose of direct characterization is to reveal to readers what kind of person a character is, so they have some idea how that person will act.

When direct characterization is used in writing, it usually takes place at the beginning of a story or script.



A writer often begins with this type of characterization to give readers an idea who certain characters are and how they will act in relation to each other.

Direct characterization is not always necessary in a story or script. A writer can rely on indirect characterization instead.

This means that readers or viewers are given certain facts about a character, but they must figure out what kind of person the character really is based on those facts and their own knowledge, experiences and imagination.

While indirect characterization works well sometimes, it can be more difficult for some people to understand and enjoy stories with this type of characterization.

This can be especially true for people who don’t tend to put much thought into what they read or watch.

What Is Direct Characterization?

For example, in “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald uses direct characterization when he has Nick Carraway directly say about Tom Buchanan: “He looked at me now with a sort of defiant steadiness, as if he were saying: ‘Well, I’m glad we’ve met up again. I want you to understand that I’m not going to be embarrassed any more.’

Another example comes from Katherine Mansfield’s short story “The Garden Party.”

When Mrs. Elliot and Mrs. Forster have an argument over whether war can be justified because human nature has not changed since ancient times.


When Should You Use Direct Characterization?

For many writers, the first draft of any story is full of action and activity. There’s a lot going on.

There are a lot of characters. There’s action and dialogue and lots of descriptions.

And then you go back through and you edit, condensing everything down to the barest bones of what’s actually necessary to tell the story. How do you know what’s necessary?

Well, you have to trim away all the extra bells and whistles and concentrate on the heart of your story: core characters, their motivations and their goals.

This is where direct characterization comes in. Direct characterization refers to writing that’s directly tied to your characters’ feelings and motivations, rather than writing that describes events in a cold, objective way or uses generalized terms for character traits.

For example, instead of saying “he was tall,” a direct characterization might say “he stretched his long limbs out as far as they could go.”

Or if instead of saying “she was pretty,” you said “her skin sparkled in the light.” Instead of saying “he was sad,” you might say “his eyes filled with tears.”

This is how you create a connection between the reader and your characters — by showing how they feel about what’s happening around them.

Examples Of Direct Characterization In Writing

Characterization is the process of revealing and defining a character through words. You can do this directly, by telling the reader what the character looks like physically, or mentally, by telling the reader how the character behaves.

It is when you give your readers a direct description of your character’s appearance. This is most often done with physical descriptions, but it can also be done with mental descriptions, such as if you want to describe someone’s personality.

Examples of direct characterization are: “Bob was a tall man, with dark hair and blue eyes.” “Bob was an angry man.” “Bob walked into the room and sighed deeply.”

A physical description that tells your reader exactly what something looks like is a straightforward method of characterization. This type of description should only be used sparingly.

Overuse of physical descriptions bogs down the story and becomes boring for your readers.

Use Mental Characterization; Mental Characterization is when you describe how your character thinks or acts. By describing a character’s mannerisms, you are indirectly describing his appearance, because mannerisms are linked to appearance.

Examples of mental characterization are: “Bob thought about his bad day at work all night long.” 

Examples Of Direct Characterization In A Screenplay

Direct characterization happens when the author directly describes a character, rather than having the character reveal themselves through their thoughts, actions, and speech.

It’s important to know the difference between direct and indirect characterization, because direct characterization is more straightforward and easier to pick up on by readers.

This means it can be a great tool for both novices and experts, depending on how it’s used. Direct characterization in a screenplay is usually done through dialogue or action.

This can be a very effective way of revealing information about the character. Consider these examples:

“I’m sorry,” he whispered softly. “I’m so sorry.” “Just stop talking,” she muttered furiously, rising from her chair.

In the first example, we learn that this character apologizes easily. In the second example, we learn that this character doesn’t like to have their authority challenged in public by other characters. Here are some more examples:

He took another bite of his food, chewing slowly and loudly for effect.” She stared at him with disdainful eyes.”

The first example shows us that this character likes to eat slowly, likely to tease or show off for those around him. The second example shows us that this character feels superior to others and judges them accordingly.

Examples Of Direct Characterization In Film

Direct characterization can be used to great effect in film. The audience is given the chance to see into the minds of the characters, and understand their thought processes.

This helps the audience to sympathize with or even identify with the characters in a way which may not be possible through a more indirect approach.

Direct characterization allows writers to create more rounded and realistic characters, as well as being a powerful tool for creating tension and drama. Direct characterization is when writers take time out from progressing the plot of the story in order to show us what one or more of their characters is thinking.

This might be done through an inner monologue by one of the characters, or simply by having them explain their thoughts and feelings directly to somebody else. If we are shown an image that represents what a character is thinking it is also an example of direct characterization.

In both cases, direct characterization can be used to reveal important plot points, for example when a character reveals some information which will help move the plot along in some way, or it can be used purely for characterization purposes.

For example, if we are shown inside somebody’s head as they think about how much they hate another character, this helps us to understand their motivations better. It also helps us to understand what type of person they are.

3 Tips For Writing Direct Characterization

Direct characterization is an exciting and useful technique in fiction writing. 

It is not just a matter of dialogue, however, as there are also descriptions of the character’s thoughts and actions which can also be considered direct characterization.

Direct characterization has many benefits for your writing. It moves the story forward quickly and efficiently by providing readers with all the information about a character that they need to know without needing to have it explained to them through exposition.

It also allows you to avoid using tags and attribution to reveal a character’s thoughts or emotions. By the time you get around to revealing something about your characters, there will be no doubt in the reader’s mind about who you’re referring to, because you’ve already made it clear what that character is like.

There are some pitfalls that can come with using direct characterization, however. The main pitfall is that you can’t rely on it exclusively to reveal everything about a character since there are limits on how much specific information you can convey through direct characterization before your readers begin to lose interest in what you’re trying to accomplish with your story.

What Are Real-Life Examples Of Direct Characterization?

I have found many examples of direct characterization in the novels I have read. Some are obvious while others are a little more subtle.

In any case, the character’s personality traits and characteristics are revealed directly through what they say and do.

Direct characterization is used when the author wants to reveal something about a major or minor character without having to go into a long explanation of their past or background. It is perfectly acceptable for any writer to use this method in any story he/she writes.

Let me give you some examples that I believe are direct characterization:

Example 1:

Alfred Hitchcock was a man who was known for his love of birds, and he often inserted them into his movies. Once he made a movie called “The Birds”. This movie is about birds that come out of nowhere and terrorize people in their homes and towns.

But, we later learn that these birds were actually the product of experiments by the government on birds. The CIA did this by putting a chemical into the air that made them go crazy and attack people.

This is an example of direct characterization because it gives us information about the government without having to tell us everything about it in detail or through dialogue between characters.

Direct vs Indirect Characterization

Direct characterization is a literary device in which an author gives a physical description of a character that includes their personality. An example of this is when an author describes a character as “kind”.

Direct characterization is used by many authors because it can make characters easier to relate to, depending on the audience. This also helps the audience be able to relate to the characters that they are reading about and may help them be more interested in what they are reading.

The main advantage with direct characterization is that it allows readers to get to know the character better by giving them background information about them. The disadvantage of direct characterization is that it may give away too much information about the character too soon, and this may ruin a reader’s interest in the character, since they already know everything about them.

Indirect characterization is another literary device that an author might use in order to tell the reader more about a certain character without actually telling them directly.

Indirect characterization is when an author uses words like “stern” or “determined” or anything else instead of talking directly about how someone is feeling or acting. This can be a good way for authors to tell you things about their characters without giving away too much at once.

Use Direct Characterization For Key Character Details

Direct characterization is all about bringing a character to life through the use of descriptive words. You’re not just using adjectives and nouns to describe your character, you’re using them to “characterize” your character.

Direct characterization is an excellent way to develop characters and bring them to life for your reader. How do you do it?

Just describe your character by using adjectives, nouns and verbs in a way that reveals something about their personality, or gives us an insight into the kind of person they are.

For example, if you wanted to describe someone who was very skinny you could say: “She was tall and thin, with a long neck.” This sort of description tells us that this woman is tall, thin as a rake and has a long neck.

But what does it tell us about her personality? That she’s bony? That she’s anorexic? Or maybe she’s just a giraffe?

If we changed the sentence slightly so that instead of saying: “She was tall and thin”, we changed it to “She was tall and willowy,” we get an entirely different impression of our character.

She no longer seems like some kind of “bird-woman,” but she seems much more elegant.

Use Direct Characterization Relevant To Arcs

First off, I am going to give credit to a fellow writer who taught me this technique. His name is Brian Kowalchuk, and he wrote a great article about characterization called “The Seven Basic Ways to Characterize Characters.”

Direct Characterization is a way of showing the audience what your character is like without telling them. This can be very useful in showing the audience what your character is like without having to have a long winded speech about it.

It also helps you avoid clunky exposition.

There are 7 different methods of direct characterization. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, but I will tell you why I think the first one on Brian’s list is the best choice for this piece.

First off, let’s talk about what direct characterization is. Direct characterization is when you describe something that your character does or says that shows the audience what they are like.

For example, if you have a character that constantly wants more money, and then you have them steal something from someone else, that would be an example of direct characterization.

You wouldn’t have to tell the audience what your character wants money for, or anything else about them; they could just show it through their actions.

Focus On The Unique And Specific

Taking Direct Characterization In To The Next Level In Your Writing

Taking direct characterization into the next level in your writing is not just one of those things that you should do, it’s one of those things you should do right away. And if you know what I’m talking about, and you’re already doing it, you probably don’t need this post to tell you why.

But for those who aren’t sure why it makes sense, or have a vague notion that it’s something they should do but aren’t sure how to actually do it, I’ve got some tips that might help.

First, let me give an example. Here’s a sentence from a novel I’m reading now: “She was a pretty girl with long legs and a body made for sin.” You’ll notice the direct characterization is given through description of the character’s body.

That’s not always appropriate; I’d avoid saying that someone had “a face made for sin”. But when the description fits, it can add flair and personality to your prose.

Here’s another example: “The car was old, battered and looked like it had been dragged behind a truck for ten miles.”

Again we have direct characterization, but this time through word choice. The phrase “car looked” is reported speech–what the character says about the car.