Prewriting for Character Analyses
Some of the most important work of developing a character analysis happens before you begin writing. The prewriting stage helps you choose a topic, gather details about it, and figure out what you want to say about it. By doing the necessary thinking and gathering up front, you'll have an easier time writing your analysis.
Prewriting for a Writing Topic
The first step in analyzing characters in literature is to select a story or novel-length work to analyze. You need to think about literature that you have recently read and decide which selection you would most like to write about. Next, you need to identify characters in the work. Creating a cluster can help you think about literature and characters.
Create a cluster.
Follow the steps to create a cluster of characters. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.
- Think about literary works you have recently read or past works you really liked.
- Write three titles near the middle of a piece of paper, circle each title, and join them with lines.
- For each book, think of important characters you could analyze. Connect them to the appropriate title.
- Decide which character or characters you would like to focus on for your analysis. Make sure the character plays an important role in the story so that you have plenty of information to use in your analysis.
Prewriting to Analyze a Character
In sports, coaches often create scouting reports to prepare for upcoming games. These reports highlight the strengths and weaknesses of opposing teams and players. In the same way, you can fill out a character scouting report to prepare to write your analysis. First, you need to get to know the person, which means carefully reading and rereading passages that involve the character. Then, you fill out the scouting report with important details.
Character Scouting Report
Name: Castle Crenshaw
- Appearance: What does the character look like?
- Personality: What words describe the character's overall personality? Caring? Friendly? Bubbly? Aggressive?
- Strengths: What characteristics help the character succeed?
- Weaknesses: What characteristics get the character in trouble?
- Hopes: What does the character want or desire?
- Fears: What scares the character?
- Motivations: What drives the character to take action?
Tall and lanky; wears hand-me down clothes that don't fit well
Angry, reserved, independent, sarcastic, and flighty
He is a super fast runner, which helps him get the attention of the track coach. He's loyal and protective of his family and (eventually) his teammates.
He doesn't trust anyone and runs from problems. He is reluctant to let down his guard. He also has a short temper, which leads to a lot of fights.
He says he wants to set a world record, but what he really desires is respect and acceptance.
He's scared of his dad and memories of his past. He's afraid of appearing weak.
Proving he is worth something
Prepare a character scouting report.
Choose a character from your literary work. Fill in the scouting report about the character. Include details from the text as well as your own observations. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.
As an alternative to the scouting report activity, students can create a fictional interview with the character as they did in the warm-up lesson of this unit.
Prewriting for Character Development
Authors often reveal thematic details—the big lessons of a story—through the development of characters. For your analysis, you'll want to consider how your character changes throughout the story and what overall lessons about life those changes suggest. You can trace the character's development by filling in a Character Shift Chart. Make sure to include specific evidence from the text, including actions, dialogue, and reflections.
Character Shift Chart
– "I got a lot of scream inside."
– People make him angry.
– "Running ain't nothing I ever had to practice. It's just something I knew how to do."
– Wants to prove he's faster than Lu
– Distrustful of coach
– Embarrassed about his clothes and shoes
– “There was so much noise inside of me. So much of everybody’s laughing."
– Fights with Brandon
– Joins the track team
– Gets bailed out of a big problem: “Trouble is, you can’t run away from yourself.”
– Cuts his high-tops
– Steals a pair of track shoes
– Doesn't earn his uniform
– Attends team dinner
– Opens up about his dark secret: "I felt . . . good. Different. Like, even though they were all stunned by what I said, I felt like they could see me.”
– Excited to be a part of a team
– Develops friendships and supports his teammates
– Enthusiastic about track
– Comfortable with himself
– Trusts his coach
– Acts with more discipline and accountability
– "You can't run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be."
– Works toward goals and aspirations
What does the character's development teach about life in general?
– You can't outrun your mistakes.
– People will look out for you but only if you give them the opportunity.
– You have to accept your past before you can push for a better future.
– Being a part of the team involves more than wins and losses.
Analyze character development.
Search through the literature, carefully reading passages that contain your key character or characters. Fill in the Character Shift Chart with information about the character's development. Answer the questions by listing things the character does or says. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.
Prewriting to Create a Thesis Statement
After gathering evidence about your character(s), you should write a working thesis statement to focus your thinking. The thesis statement should name the character and sum up the most important lesson the character learned (or failed to learn) in the story.
Write a thesis statement.
Write down the character(s) you will analyze and the lesson you will connect to. Then combine both into a single sentence that expresses your thesis. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.
you have to accept your past before you can chase a better future
Joining the Defenders teaches Castle Crenshaw to accept his past and chase a better future.
Remind students that this is a working thesis statement, meaning they can make adjustments to it as they begin writing.