#19 Characterization – The Direct Method

by | Jul 13, 2020 | Writers Write

The Direct Method

This week we study the direct method?of creating a character. This method entails the author telling the reader what the character is like so It includes the details authors explicitly describe. The direct approach is especially helpful in certain situations. For example, when the character trait is not easily conveyable. This article will provide you with everything you need to know about writing a character using the direct method.


Developing a character with genuine depth requires a focus on not just desire but how the character deals with frustration of her desires, as well as her vulnerabilities, her secrets, and especially her contradictions. This development needs to be forged in scenes, the better to employ your intuition rather than your intellect. ? David Corbett


Direct Method Examples From Literature

Example 1: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

?The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheek ? Everything about him was old except his eyes, and they were the same colour as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.?

So the author tells us the man was old, thin and gaunt and he tells us he the man is cheerful and undefeated. Note that the direct method is seldom used on its own because it is not suitable as a singular technique. Therefore, use this method in conjunction with the indirect method.


Example 2: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

?Mr Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance and easy, unaffected manners. ? he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.?

?The author tells us Mr Bingley is handsome and gentlemanlike. Furthermore, he has unaffected manners and is proud. Therefore, in a few short words, we have a sense of the character.

Direct characterization describes a character and their motivations. The method conveys a character?s behaviours, appearance, way of speaking or thinking, interests, mannerism, and their mental and emotional state. Using this technique, sparingly makes for a powerful tool of the author?s craft.


The Direct Method Formula

To understand the direct method formula, you must understand the various parts of speech. Here are the types of speech and their functions:

  • NOUN: the name of a person, place, thing, or idea (man, John, happiness).
  • PRONOUN: a word used in place of a noun (She, we, they).
  • VERB: a word expressing action or being (jump, is, write, become).
  • ADJECTIVE: a word that modifies or describes a noun or pronoun (pretty, old, blue).
  • ADVERB: a word that modifies or describes a verb, an adjective or another adverb (gently, incredibly, well).
  • PREPOSITION: a word placed before a noun or pronoun to form a phrase modifying another word in the sentence. It shows the relationship between elements of a sentence (by, with, about).
  • CONJUNCTION: a word which joins words, phrases or clauses (and, but, because).
  • INTERJECTION: a word used to express emotion (Oh! Wow! Oops!).
  • ARTICLE: there are three articles (a, an, the).


Let?s look at the below sentence using the direct method through the lens of their different parts of speech:

Formula 1: Use a proper noun or pronoun then a verb showing a state of being (was, is) and an adjective.

?John was tall and handsome. He often smiled despite holding a sadness behind his eyes.?
Proper noun, verb, adjective conjunction adjective.

Formula 2: Use a proper noun or pronoun, a strong verb and an adverb.

?John danced across the floor, gracefully.?
Proper noun, strong verb, preposition, article, noun, adverb.

As the author, you can use either a sentence telling the reader who a character is, how a character moves or what they look like.


Ways To Practice

I find imitation the best teacher. Find examples from literature you love and collect as many as you can. Jot the examples down in your practice notebook. Once you have amassed enough examples, spend ten minutes a day, rewriting your own direct description using the author?s structure.

Furthermore, it is essential that once you complete the exercise, that you reflect on the activity by asking yourself what you have learnt. Rate your description, and then ask yourself what did I learn? Write your insights down and carry your new-found knowledge into the next practice. Do this over some time, and you will find yourself more readily crafting compelling characters.


The Big Idea

The direct method is a powerful technique. In very few words, you can convey the essence of a character but use it sparingly. For the main characters, you cannot use the direct method alone. You will need to use a mixture of both direct and indirect methods. However, for supporting characters, the direct method on its own does wonders and helps convey the big picture of the character quickly. This enables you to maintain the flow of your story because the last thing you want is to disrupt the spell you cast on your reader to dump a bunch of impertinent details. Lastly, you will not improve without practice. An athlete would not compete in the Olympics without years of practising and conditioning. Therefore, practice, practice practice and in so doing, give yourself the change to bring your characters to life like never before.

Happy reading, Kryptic Fans!