There are type types of characterizations in literature: direct and indirect characterizations. With direct characterizations, an author provides the reader with a very specific description of a character. For example, a character's physical description is provide by stating that the character is "tall with an athletic build." This offers a very specific mental image for the reader. Internally, a character can be described directly through distinct characterizations: "she was a kind person, willing to do anything for anyone." Readers know exactly the kind of person the character described is like.
Indirect characterizations, on the other hand, require the reader to make inferences (educated guesses) about the covert characteristics offered. Here, readers must make inferences about the character based upon dialogue, actions, and private thoughts. For example, a character may be defined through his or her actions: "she looked around prior to taking the twenty dollar bill out of her father's wallet." Here, a reader would infer that the character is not trustworthy. Richard Connell uses both direct and indirect characterizations in his short story "The Most Dangerous Game."
"Rainsford sprang up and moved quickly to the rail." "When he opened his eyes he knew from the position of the sun that it was late in the afternoon." "He examined the ground closely and found what he had hoped to find--the print of hunting boots."
For all of the sentences above, Rainsford can be defined as nimble (quick), intelligent, and knowledgeable. His quick movement to the rail illustrates his nimbleness, while his knowledge of the position of the sun illustrates his intelligence. His expectations that he will find bootprints show his knowledge about hunting or tracking.
"The first thing Rainsford's eyes discerned was the largest man Rainsford had ever seen--a gigantic creature, solidly made and black bearded to the waist." "Ivan is an incredibly strong fellow," remarked the general, "but he has the misfortune to be deaf and dumb. A simple fellow, but, I'm afraid, like all his race, a bit of a savage."
Here, the reader has no question about Ivan. He is a huge, muscular man with a very long black beard. Zaroff openly describes him as strong, deaf (unable to hear), and dumb (mute--unable to speak).