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What does characterization mean?

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Characterization is the combination of all of the things an author does to create the personality of a character in a piece of literature.  There are several techniques an author can use, and good author's usually use a blending of all of the techniques in order to create a well-rounded picture of the person.  Here are the most common techniques:

  1. What the narrator directly states.
  2. What the character does.
  3. What the character thinks.
  4. What the character says.
  5. What other characters say about the character.

As a reader, you get to know characters by considering all of the above pieces of the person.  For example, if the narrator directly tells us that a character is strong, then we store away that piece of information.  On the next page, the character picks up his own car in order to move it into the garage.  Now we have a detail of what he does that reinforces what we already learned.  On the next page the characters thinks about getting to the gym for his next workout.  That thought also contributes to his characterization by revealing what the character thinks about and what is important to him.  On the next page, the character says, "If you need your car moved, just call me!" Then what he says reveals his character.  First, he is a nice, helpful guy, but also, that he is very strong.  On the last page, his friend remarks, "Wow, I didn't think he could do it, but he picked up the car!"  Then the comments of other characters reinforce the characterization.

The above example is simple, but it gives you an idea of how all of the techniques work together to play off of one another and reinforce the characterization that the author is trying to craft.  With longer works, there will be several facets to the characterization, but the techniques will still be the same.

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