Direct vs oblique characterization: eight recommendations and examples
Defining direct and oblique characterization
‘Direct characterization’ approach the person information authors explicitly describe. For instance, telling the reader a person’s desires, lifestyles philosophy or present day emotional kingdom explicitly.
An instance of direct characterization
Here’s an instance of direct characterization from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927). Woolf explicitly suggests what characters consider one another. For instance, an artist staying with the Ramsay family, Lily Briscoe, thinks approximately a person Mr. Bankes who has referred to as Mr Ramsay a hypocrite:
‘Looking up, there he turned into – Mr. Ramsay – advancing toward them, swinging, careless, oblivious, remote. A little bit of a hypocrite? she repeated. Oh no – the maximum honest of men, the truest (right here he turned into), the fine; but, searching down, she notion, he’s absorbed in himself, he’s tyrannical, he’s unjust…’ (p. 52).
This is direct – Woolf describes Mr. Ramsay’s trends directly – his self-absorption and so forth.
In evaluation to direct characterization, ‘oblique characterization’ suggests readers your characters’ trends with out explicitly describing them. What kinds of oblique characterization are there? Any writing that enables us infer or deduce matters approximately a person’s persona. For instance:
Dialogue – (in which a person’s bossy, type, mean, or different traits come through)Actions – what a person does (for instance leaping on a beetle to squash it) reveals, incidentally, their person (in this situation that a person is needlessly unkind or violent)Description – despite the fact that institutions fluctuate from tradition to tradition, how a person seems regularly offers oblique characterization. We may assume, for instance, a pale-skinned person is delinquent and hides far from the sun, just like the recluse Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird
An instance of oblique characterization Here, John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath suggests a person’s persona indirectly. He doesn’t say that hitchhiker Joad is a down-and-out, blue-collar employee. Instead, the oblique characterization makes use of the props a employee within side the context could have – whiskey, cigarettes, calloused hands – to reveal Joad’s person. ‘Joad took a brief drink from the flask. He dragged the ultimate smoke from his raveling cigarette and then, with callused thumb and forefinger, beaten out the sparkling quit. He rubbed the butt to a pulp and positioned it out the window, letting the breeze suck it from his fingers.’ (The Grapes of Wrath, p. 9)So how do you operate direct and oblique characterization well? Read recommendations for each:
Tips for the use of direct characterization
1. Don’t overdo it
Direct characterization is convenient. You can supply readers records approximately your characters quickly, in a unmarried word or sentence. For instance, this direct person description of Mr Bounderby in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times (1854):
‘So, Mr Bounderby threw on his hat – he constantly threw it on, as expressing a person who were a long way too busily hired in making himself, to gather any style of carrying his hat.’ (p. 26)
In Dickens’ novel, rich Mr Bounderby continuously tells others approximately his impoverished history and what a self-made guy he’s. This direct characterization (his theatrically detached manner of throwing on his hat) shows his haste, his being ‘a hectic guy with crucial matters to do’. Its accordingly suits his personality and backstory.
2. Use direct characterization for key person information
When introducing characters for the primary time particularly, use direct characterization to present readers important information. It’s less complicated to recollect certainly states facts, e.g. ‘She turned into a type woman.’ Consider, for instance, our first advent to the person named ‘Mother’s Younger Brother’ (we’ll abbreviate ‘MYB’) in E.L. Doctorow’s traditional novel Ragtime (1975):
‘Down at the lowest of the hill Mother’s Younger Brother boarded the streetcar and rode to the quit of the line. He turned into a lonely, withdrawn younger guy with blond moustaches, and turned into notion to be having issue locating himself.’ (p. 4)
Doctorow makes use of direct characterization to reveal MYB’s melancholic nature. As we study on, we study MYB is in love with a well-known refrain girl, Evelyn Nesbit. Doctorow passes into oblique characterization, describing the posters of Evelyn at the wall in MYB’s bed room and his stalking of her to demonstrate the volume of his obsessive nature.
3. Introduce characters with direct characterization applicable to arcs
Effective direct characterization enables us photo characters’ appearances and understand their number one goals, drives, and motivations. Some bodily description is crucial, particularly on first advent. Yet the fine bodily description regularly tells us some thing approximately the person’s persona, too. And even hyperlinks to their tale arc, as MYB’s ‘lonely’ nature in Ragtime does.