Characterization is a literary device that is used step by step in literature to highlight and explain the details about a character in a story. It is in the initial stage where the writer introduces the character with noticeable emergence and then following the introduction of the character, the writer often talks about his behavior; then as the story progresses, the thought-process of the character. The next stage involves the character expressing his opinions and ideas and getting into conversations with the rest of the characters. The final part shows how others in the story respond to the character’s personality.
Characterization as a literary tool was coined in the mid 15th century. Aristotle in his Poetics argued that “tragedy is a representation, not of men, but of action and life”. Thus the assertion of the dominance of plot over characters, termed as plot-driven narrative, is unmistakable. This point of view was later on abandoned by many because, in the 19th century, the dominance of character over plot became clear through petty bourgeois novels.
Types of Characterization
An author can use two approaches to deliver information about a character and build an image of it:
1. Direct or explicit characterization
This kind of characterization takes a direct approach towards building the character. It uses another character, narrator or the protagonist himself to tell the readers or audience about the subject.
2. Indirect or implicit characterization
This is a more subtle way of introducing the character to the audience. The audience has to deduce for themselves the characteristics of the character by observing his/her thought process, behavior, speech, way of talking, appearance, and way of communication with other characters and also by discerning the response of other characters.
Characterization is an essential component in writing good literature. Modern fiction, in particular, has taken great advantage of this literary device. Understanding the role of characterization in storytelling is very important for any writer. To put it briefly, it helps us make sense of the behavior of any character in a story by helping us understand their thought processes. A good use of characterization always leads the readers or audience to relate better to the events taking place in the story. Dialogues play a very important role in developing a character because they give us an opportunity to examine the motivations and actions of the characters more deeply.