Character Trait Description, Types of Characters & Examples
What makes a book skyrocket to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List? One reason a books ends up on the top of the list would be the characters. Characters with strong and interesting traits make the reader want to find out what is going to happen to him or her from the exposition (beginning that includes the setting and introduces the characters) to the resolution (ending where all of the loose ends are tied up).
Classic or popular books such as Frankenstein, Harry Potter , or The Giver have interesting characters with strong character traits. For example in The Giver, the main character Jonas has the following character traits:
Attentive, bright, brave, determined, frustrated, secretive, young
Jonas is secretive about seeing the apple turn red early on in the novel. He is very determined when he leaves his community with Gabriel when he realizes that the child will be "released" soon, which means the child will be killed. Jonas is also only twelve-years-old, which makes him young and enables older elementary students, middle school students and some high school students able to identify with him.
Example Character Traits
Students need to be able to describe the characters with character traits that are adjectives. Some character traits are as follows:
- alluring, ambitious, arrogant
- blunt, boorish, bossy, brilliant
- clumsy, cocky, crafty, courageous
- dark, discrete, discouraged, dutiful
- earnest, eloquent, evil, expert
- faithful, fierce, flirt, fortunate
- giddy, glamorous, grouchy, guilty
- hardy, happy, hateful, healthy
- ignorant, immaculate, inconsiderate, independent
- jealous, kindly, lazy, leader
- malicious, moody, mysterious,
- nasty, negligent, nervous, noisy
- obedient, obnoxious, picky, popular
- quarrelsome, quiet, responsible, restless
- sappy, self-centered, sickly, sly
- talented, tenacious, touchy, trustworthy
- useful, uppity, vulgar, valiant
- warm, weak, zealous
Round, Flat, Dynamic & Static Characters
Characters need to have some outstanding character traits and some subtle ones too to seem realistic. If the reader does not care about or connect with a main character, then students many times will stop reading. Usually, a novel has a variety of characters with an assortment of character traits.
Strong characters are round and/or dynamic characters. A round character has many sides or traits and seems realistic, and a dynamic character goes through a change. Minor characters or weak characters are flat and/or static. A flat character has one outstanding trait, and a static character does not change. To analyze characters, students need to be able to think about what makes the character realistic and what type of character it is.
In addition, there are archetypical characters. These are characters that can be recognized in many pieces of literature and are "stereotypical." The archetypical character becomes a "mold" for many other characters to be patterned after by repeating the character traits. A few examples are the reluctant hero, the rebel, the dark advisor, a king or queen, the damsel in distress, the trickster, etc.
Character Trait Activities
One way for students to analyze a character’s trait is to write a poem. Poetry allows students to be creative and use poetic devices to write their poems. Students can write an acrostic poem using character traits. Or they can write a cinquain.
Cinquain Character Trait Poem
A cinquain is a five-line poem that focuses on one subject. Students can use the character trait list from the first page of this lesson to help them write the cinquain. The rules to write a character trait cinquain are as follows:
- Write the character’s name
- Write two character traits that describe the character as a whole
- Write three verbs that describe the character’s actions
- Write a four word phrase that gives the writer’s opinion about the character
- Write a noun that is another name or word for the character
Example Character Trait Cinquain
Thinking, receiving, sneaking
Boy making hard choices
Character Trait Essays
Another way to analyze a character is to write a character sketch. Or, students can write a five paragraph essay on a character. The following steps will help students to write an essay that focuses on character traits.
Step 1: Students need to select three major character traits for their chosen character.
Step 2: Then, they need to write a thesis statement. This is one sentence that tells the reader what the essay will be about.
Step 3: The first paragraph will be the introduction. It should include the name of the novel, the author, basic information about the novel and the thesis statement.
Step 4: The three body paragraph will each focus on one of the character traits chosen. Students need to give examples from the novel that showcase each character trait.
Step 5: The conclusion will wrap up the essay and give the writer’s opinion about the character and the traits described.
These are just a few ways that students can improve their understanding of character traits. By writing a poem or essay, students can improve their writing skills as well.