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Character Sketch Essay Definition

How to Write a Narrative


If you choose to write a narrative, it should be a story in which either you or someone you know well was actually involved. You should avoid stories that simply recount accidents. What I mean is this: a good story needs to have the element of choice in it. If you describe an accident, you need to show that decisions led up to it. This story should be about people, about the decisions they make and the consequences that follow.

A narrative is a moving picture. Like description, narratives need to have a rich texture of details so that the reader is seeing, hearing, smelling, and touching. The reader should experience the story, not simply hear it.

Stories add the element of time to description. Often stories start at the beginning and then follow the sequence of events chronologically. However, an effective variation on this pattern is to start in the middle of things and then use flashbacks to fill in the background information. This method is especailly effective in holding the reader's attention.

There are two extremes you want to avoid in writing a narrative. First, you can simply tell the story, event by event, without giving it any texture because you leave out descriptive details and dialogue. At the opposite extreme is a narrative that attempts to tell everything, painting detailed descriptions of every scene, quoting everything that is said, even speculating about the thoughts of the characters. A good narrative has texture, but it is suggestive rather than exhaustive. After all, the reader's imagination needs some room to fill in details. Giving too many details not only overwhelms the reader's imagination, it also slows the pace of the narrative.

Pacing is an important concept in narrative writing. Basically, pacing means that the writer sometimes slows the pace by putting more detail in, but sometimes she also hurries over details. A good way to know where to put in details and where to leave them out is to think of a narrative as consisting of episodes (smaller scenes that are strung together to make up a longer story). If you divide your story into a few short episodes, then you want suggestive detail within the episodes, but you want to hurry over the transitions between them. Think of episodes as pearls on a string. Make the pearls full orbed; keep the string stringy. The reader dwells in the episodes, but she needs to be oriented to them, and that is the function of the transitions.

As with description, point of view is important. What position is the story being told from? Another way of talking about this is to talk about the story's narrator. The narrator is not the writer, but the consciousness through which the story is told. Sometimes the story is told in third person, which means that every one is referred to as he, or she, or they. Sometimes, however, it is told in first person, which means that the narrator refers to himself as "I" and is actually involved in the story. Not all narrators are reliable.

The more sophisticated narratives become, the more problematic is the narrator. When the narrator tells the story in first person, but details in the story lead the reader to suspect that the narrator is not reliable, the result is irony. Irony is a narrative condition in which the reader and the writer share a common judgmental attitude toward the narrator, or when the reader knows more than the narrator and characters in the story.

For this assignment, it is probably better to tell the story as straight as possible. Irony is hard to pull off successfully. If you want to experiment with narrative form, I would suggest that you start somewhere in the middle of things and then use flashbacks. Also work on putting in suggestive but not overwhelming detail and dialogue. Try dividing your story into short episodes that build on each other. If you can pattern a sequence of events so that the story has some kind of climax (a scene of great tension and even explosion) followed by a denoument (a scene in which everything is worked out), you will have done more than many of us can.

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Character Sketch Guidelines

A Character Sketch is a great way for your student to assess the characters in the literature they are reading or people that they are researching about. It can give them tools of observation as they look at the many details about another individual.

When studying a specific character in a literary piece the sketch gives the student the freedom to be a detective and try to find out what the author is expressing through their characters. They can sketch the protagonist ( the favorable hero or heroine in the story,) or the antagonist ( the character which causes the conflict for the main character), or the supporting characters. Assigning this kind of paper sharpens the skill of observation and note-taking as they focus on one specific character and the traits that make them ‘who they are’ in the book.

Can you write a sketch without a book to study? Absolutely!  A great way to give them practice for writing from  a literary piece is to sketch someone they know in real-life. Choosing someone they admire makes it both fun and encouraging. ( Plus what a blessing it would be to share it with the person they are writing about.)

When you are writing a Character Sketch, want to look for qualities of character and/or personality traits that you see in the person you want to write about.  The main goal of the assignment is to be able  to tell something  about the person you are researching. Think of it like  an introduction.  In essence, you are introducing the reader to the person you are writing about.

 

Be sure to use strong visual words in your writing. You want to provide a lasting mental image of the person or character you are writing about. The use of quality adjectives and feeling in your writing,  using words that relate to the five senses,  elicit an emotional response from your reader.  This will allow your reader to not only connect with you and the character but will show how you felt when reading a piece or spending time with the person you are writing about.

 

A  character sketch is not a history of the person; however,  this type of paper requires you to give only a brief glimpse of the individual. When you are preparing to write make a list of the traits or details you want to include. If you have a word limit on the assignment it is possible to assign the number of traits equal to the # of paragraphs or supporting topics needed.  Or you can categorize the subjects into a broader spectrum which allows you to have multiple supporting points for each topic.  It is always best to outline your writing material first so you have a good idea what you are writing.

 

Your outline should include descriptions on the following details:

°  Tell about their physical features. ( hair color, height, etc.)

°  Tell about the character’s personality. ( are they funny, serious, quiet, etc.?)

°  Their  likes or dislikes( What you know about their preferences and why?)

°  Talk about their family ( siblings, family history, etc)

°  What are their  beliefs or  hobbies?

°  Include anything that makes us see “who” they are.

°  What do you like or dislike about them?

°  Why are you drawn to them?

 

Here is a sample outline for you to follow. It is a basic 5 paragraph ( approximately 500 wd essay outline)  Feel free to take this and make it your own or make your own outline using this a s a guide.

 

        I.            Introduction:

This section will introduce the character and is typically the 1st paragraph in  your paper.  It should include the following:

 

  • Your thesis statement ( the overall theme of the paper or the main idea of what you are writing) . The Thesis statement should  include the most  important character traits.
  • The subtopics ( these become the topic sentence in your body paragraphs) should be included in this paragraph as well. For example: use 1 – 2 sentences to list the traits that you are going to talk about. End with a transition sentence that ties into the 2nd paragraph.

 

II.            Body:

This is paragraphs 2-4 or the in between paragraphs. The body comes between the Introduction and the Conclusion. These paragraphs detail the traits listed as the subtopics from the Introduction. Those subtopics should be the topic sentences in each body paragraph.

 

  • Always try to include the most important trait 1st, the second most important detail next, and so on.  Each paragraph has 1 trait which is discussed in detail. Include information  about experiences that support the trait which is being discussed.
    • Remember!  You want to pull your reader in so include details that will connect them to your main character.

 

   III.            Conclusion:

This is the last paragraph in your paper. Try to conclude with a final comment, pointed and well-expressed, that highlights the traits discussed in the paper.

 

  • Restate your thesis statement.
  • Remind the reader of your most important points.
  • Close with a solid statement which finalizes all you are trying to communicate to the reader.

Remember a good paragraph is 3-7 sentences. All sentences need to have a subject and a predicate. They should be a complete thought. Utilize tools of dress up in your writing. ie: quality adjectives, strong verbs, adverbs, prepositions, adverbial and or adjectival clauses etc. A GREAT resource for this is the IEW Student Resource Notebook which you can find on the Institute for Excellence in Writing Website.

Last point!  RE-read your papers.  I always encourage my students to write their rough draft and then walk away for at least a day or two. Then go back with FRESH eyes and re-read it. Always have someone else read it through for those little editing mistakes it is easy to miss in  your own writing.

 

Downloadable PDF:

Character Sketch Guidelines