Are you wondering how to analyze a character in a story? Character analysis is an important skill to learn. Learn more in this article.
There are a lot of basic skills that you learn in English class, and one of them could include character analysis. Most books have multiple major characters, and you need to understand how each character relates to one another. In addition, there are numerous types of characters, and each of them has its own personality traits.
If you are writing a character analysis essay, you need to track character development across the story. If you are unsure how to analyze a character, we will teach you all you need to know with the following six easy steps.
- Materials Needed
- Step 1: Identify the Character Type
- Step 2: Determine the Character’s Role in the Story
- Step 3: Understand the Character’s Mentionable Actions
- Step 4: Explore the Main Character Relationships
- Step 5: Discern the Main Personality Traits?
- Step 6: Explore the Character’s Evolution
- Final Word on How To Analyze a Character
- FAQs About How To Analyze a Character
If you would like to analyze a character, the first thing you need to do is collect the appropriate materials. You won’t need much to complete a character analysis. Some of the materials you need to have include:
- You should have whatever work your character is in. This could be a short story, an essay, or a novel.
- If you have already read the work, you should also have your notes.
- You should have a notebook you can use to take notes as you go.
- You should have multiple highlighters and writing utensils available.
Once you’ve collected the necessary materials, it is time to start analyzing your character. There are several steps you need to follow.
Step 1: Identify the Character Type
The first thing you should do is identify whether you have a dynamic or static character. This should not take you very long if you have already read the book. If you are dealing with a static character, you have a character that does not change much throughout the work. If you have a dynamic character, you have a character that changes a lot as the work unfolds.
You may want to look at the individual body paragraph because they will help you perform a character analysis outline. In many cases, it is easier to analyze a static character because it will not change over the course of the story. On the other hand, static characters can still have a lot of nuances in them.
It can take a long time to analyze a dynamic character because that character changes during the book or story. If you already have some idea of how the character changes, you may want to write a character analysis outline. That way, you can fill in the outline as you go through the rest of the story. You might also find our explainer on how to research books helpful.
Step 2: Determine the Character’s Role in the Story
Next, you need to identify the primary role of the character. For example, you may be working with the protagonist. The protagonist is the main character of the story. For example, if you are reading a story about medieval knights, the protagonist might be the hero of the story. They could be the knight in shining armor that saves the day.
Or, you might be doing a character analysis of the antagonist. The antagonist is the main villain of the story. For example, if you are performing a character analysis of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, you are dealing with the story’s main villain.
You can also perform a character analysis of some of the minor characters. There is nothing wrong with performing a character analysis of a supporting character you happen to find interesting. However, you should write down the character’s primary role you are analyzing at the top of the page. That way, you will not forget how the character fits into the rest of the story.
Step 3: Understand the Character’s Mentionable Actions
So, now that you have identified the main character and whether they change throughout the story, it is time to figure out what the character does. Recognizing the character’s thoughts and actions will help you fill out the rest of your character analysis.
If you have already read the story, you should have some idea of what the character does as the story unfolds. You don’t necessarily need to write down each action that the character takes, but you should identify the main actions over the course of the story.
If you want to identify the character’s main actions during your character study, there are a few questions you may want to answer. They include:
- Why do you think your character is the protagonist or antagonist?
- What is the first significant action the character takes in the story?
- Why do you think your character behaves the way they do?
- How do the character’s actions influence the way the story unfolds?
If you can identify specific moments in the story that answer the questions above, you should have an easier time figuring out what actions are most important to your character analysis.
Step 4: Explore the Main Character Relationships
Once you identify the most important character actions throughout the story, you can start identifying their relationships. There is a good chance multiple other characters play important roles in the story. These relationships drive the story forward. Therefore, you should include them as a part of your character analysis.
There are several meaningful relationships you may want to highlight as a part of your character analysis. They include:
- Who is the main antagonist? Not all relationships are positive. You should write down the main antagonist in the story and how that relationship unfolds with the story.
- Does the character have any allies? For example, in The Lord of the Rings series, Frodo has an entire band that travels with him. All of these characters are important.
- Are there any characters that your character has to protect? You may want to highlight these relationships as well. Your character might make decisions based on the protection of those individual characters.
- Does the character have any family members? Even if the family members are not present throughout the story, they could play an essential role in the character’s thoughts and actions.
These are a few of the most important relationships you may want to highlight in your character analysis. Even flat characters have relationships that you may want to highlight. You do not necessarily need to include every minor character, but you should try to include the main ones.
Step 5: Discern the Main Personality Traits?
Now that you have identified some of the most critical actions and relationships, some of the key character traits should rise to the surface. Start by brainstorming some of the most prominent personality traits you think of when you envision that character. For example, if you think about Harry Potter, you probably think about bravery. Harry Potter consistently takes risks to protect those who are important to him.
Not every character is going to have the trait. If you are looking at a character with a relatively minor role, you may have difficulty picking out important personality traits. You do not necessarily have to write down a lot of traits, but you should write down enough to learn more about the character’s personality.
If you are having a difficult time identifying personality traits, some questions you may want to ask yourself include:
- Is your character more of an introvert or an extrovert?
- Is your character more aggressive or cautious?
- Does your character tend to talk a lot, or are they relatively quiet?
- Is the character generous and giving, or are they self-centered?
These are a few basic questions that will get you started. They will also help you learn more about the character’s background and why your character behaves a certain way.
Step 6: Explore the Character’s Evolution
Finally, if you are dealing with a dynamic, round character, your character should change as the story unfolds. Even in a short story, your character might undergo several changes.
You might think this is a lot of work, but you probably already have a lot of the answers in front of you. First, take a look at the biggest actions the character takes. These actions usually drive the changes in the character’s personality. Next, review the personality traits you have just written down, and tie them directly to the actions above. Then, you may want to identify specific supporting characters that also play a role in those actions.
As you put all of this together, you should figure out how the character changes. What are some of the most significant changes the character makes? Why does the character change? How did these changes influence the decisions the character makes down the road?
This information can help you fill out a worksheet on character analysis. Performing a detailed character analysis is important because it enables you to see the story’s structure in its entirety. As you get better at character analysis, you will better appreciate the story.
You might also be interested in our guide on how to analyze a sentence.
Final Word on How To Analyze a Character
There is more than one way to perform a character analysis, but this is one of the primary ways. You might even want to change how you carry out your character analysis based on the character you are analyzing. However, remember that you should always start with the character’s role and whether they change as the story unfolds.
Then, you should write down some of the primary relationships and actions the character takes. Usually, these actions and relationships reflect the character’s personality. This will help you identify some of the most important personality traits of that character.
Finally, if you would like to take your character analysis a step further, you may want to look at how that character’s physical attributes and actions play a role in the larger story. Again, this will help you conduct a deep dive into your specific literary work.
FAQs About How To Analyze a Character
Why is it important to perform a character analysis?
It is important to perform a character analysis because this will help you learn more about how certain characters relate to one another. This will also help you learn more about how certain actions taken by the characters influence the story’s plot.
What are the most important ways in which to analyze a character?
There are several important ways in which you should analyze a character. First, you need to determine whether your character is dynamic or static. Then, you need to figure out your character’s role in the story. After this, you should analyze the character’s relationships, actions, and personality traits.
How is analyzing a character different from studying the plot of the story?
When you analyze the plot of the story, you look at the story as a whole. When conducting a character analysis, you look at an individual character and their relationships. The character analysis is more specific, while a plot analysis is more comprehensive.
Does every character change as the story unfolds?
Not every character will change as the story unfolds. Usually, the protagonist and antagonist will change. More minor characters will usually stay the same during the story. If the character changes during the story, you should note how the character changes and why you think that’s the case.