Essentials of Direct Characterization

Flynn Hannan
Writers Republic
Published in
5 min readAug 23, 2022



One of the key elements in writing that helps readers visualize a fictional character is through direct characterization. The primary objective of the writer is to enable readers to visualize who certain characters are and how they will interact with each other. A good writer must have the ability to write immersive and likeable characters.

This is easier said than done because there have been a multitude of characters written through the centuries, and if you want your characters to be as noteworthy as possible, you should know how to use direct characterization. Why not try out direct characterization?

What is direct characterization?

This type of characterization is very straightforward, and the main intent is to share key details of the character’s appearance, passions, motivations, and backgrounds. It is a very useful tool for every writer to use in character writing sessions.

Direct Characterization writing tips

If you are going to use direct characterization, it is important that you have a set strategy. This will allow you to fully utilize all of the key aspects of direct characterization.

1. Utilize direct characterization during the early parts of your story

The best time to use direct characterization in your story, is during the earliest parts of the story. This is especially important if you are going to introduce your characters for the very first part.

The introduction must not only be informative, the event should also be memorable. The audience must understand that this is an event that they should take note of. While you could use direct characterization later on in the story, it is during the early parts of the story that you could make the most impact with this writing method.

2. Describe their physical and personality traits in detail

An important aspect of direct characterizations, is describing your characters in details. Remember that in order for your readers to know, like, and eventually appreciate your characters, they will need to know what they look like, and what their personality is. As a rule, you should take the time to cultivate your main characters. You don’t need to rush during this part of the story.

This is especially important for your main characters. Take the time to write about their physical and personality traits. You could also give hints about their background, and even their hobbies. You don’t need to share everything about your main character though.

If you want to make your main character more mysterious, you could forgo certain details, and share them later on in the story. What’s important is that you give your readers a clear picture of your characters, and what they bring to the table.

3. Use descriptive writing

Yet another way to utilize direct characterization, is to use descriptive writing. While you could use plain descriptions for your characters, you could also add a bit more flair into your prose. This will not only spice up your writing, it will also make your characters seem more interesting. Here are some writing tools that you could use.

· Phrases

Phrases are a great way to describe your characters. When you write about your character, it is important that you make your characters sound as unique as possible. By using phrases, you will be able to do so easily. Take a look at these great examples.

Miss Ingram was a mark beneath jealousy: she was too inferior to excite feeling. Pardon the seeming paradox; I mean what I say. She was very showy, but she was not genuine; she had a fine person, many brilliant attainments, but her mind was poor, her heart barren by nature; nothing bloomed spontaneously on that soil; no unforced natural fruit delighted by its freshness. She was not good; she was not original; she used to repeat sounding phrases from books; she never offered, nor had, an opinion of her own. She advocated a high tone of sentiment, but she did not know the sensations of sympathy and pity; tenderness and truth were not in her.

- Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

She was a spoiler, a needler, an underminer, a diminisher, simply by instinct.

- Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince

Pastor Ben Bonner was a balding man with a face lined by laughter and pain, and eyes that always held more hope than despair. Barely as tall as Calum’s chest but stout as an oak, he clasped Calum’s forearm and pulled him into a fatherly embrace.

- L.H. Leonard, Legend of the Storm Hawks

· Adjectives

If you want to make your characters as interesting as possible, it is important that you use descriptive adjectives. While you could use more simplistic terms to describe your characters, they may sound flat to your readers. As a rule, you should use descriptive adjectives when you introduce your characters.

· Epithets

Another way you could describe your characters is through epithets. For example, Voldemort, from the Harry Potter series, is known as He Who Must Not Be Named. While the dark wizard does have a name, his epithet creates a sense of dread for whoever says it.

4. Use foils effectively

A great way to showcase your character’s traits effectively is to use foils. These characters are meant to act as the polar opposites of your main character.

While the foil is not meant to be the main villain, he or she could be an anti-villain in the story, and must highlight what your main character is not. For example, if your main character is a good and generous person, then the foil may be a bad-natured and selfish individual.

This does not mean that the foil should directly antagonize the main character. The foil could even interact well with the main character, and form a good relationship later in the story. However, the foil’s main traits should never match those of the main characters.

5. Make your character motivations clear

Yet another way to utilize direct characterization in your writing is to make your character motivations clear. Remember that a main character that has vague motivations may not be likeable. Readers want a character who knows what he or she wants. This will also help move the overall story forward.


If you want to make your characters as memorable and vivid as possible, you should try out the literary tool direct characterization. By using direct characterization in your writing, your characters will definitely be more memorable, and have an impact on readers.

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Flynn Hannan
Writers Republic

Bibliophile , Senior Indie Editor at Writers Republic