Characterization Challenging Discussion Question

Discuss: Why is direct characterization challenging?


Direct characterization can be challenging to write. As the author of a written story, we may find it feels more natural to simply tell the reader why a character does, thinks, says, or appears a certain way. In other words, we may find it more straightforward to use indirect characterization.

Mainly Indirect Characterization ExampleMainly Direct Characterization ExampleFlip was at their breaking point. They had gone over this what felt like 1,000 times. The glasses should be in the top rack of the dishwasher and the plates belonged in the lower rack, never the other way. Flip seethed with frustration over how dirty the dishes washed the wrong way would be and got to work, determined to right this terrible injustice. 

Flip removed dirty plates and glasses from the dishwasher and stacked them on the counter.

“Why is this so hard to remember?” they asked the empty kitchen. 

Just then, their housemate Jan walked in with a dirty plate and fork. She put the plate in the top rack.

“Can I show you something?” Flip asked, opening the cupboard where they stored the plates. Flip pulled out one from the top, streaked with dried lasagna. “This is what happens when we put the plates in the top rack.”

“Eew,” Jan said. “So then don’t put them in the top rack.”


Janet Burroway (2015) describes the forms of characterization as follows:

In nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and drama, there are essentially five possible methods of presenting a character to the reader:

Directly, through





Or indirectly, through

“telling” or interpreting as an author

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