How to Write a Character Analysis

by Dr Davis on February 28, 2008

This is all you need to know to write a character analysis. The character analysis is easily divided into three parts. Each of these is discussed in detail on this blog. You do not need to answer every question, but examining the character from these three perspectives will help you write an exemplary essay.

At the end of this post is a list of blog posts on how to write the particular sections of a character analysis as well.

A strong character analysis will:

  1. identify the type of character it is dealing with. (A single character could be two or three types. See “There are different types of characters” below.)
  2. describe the character.
  3. discuss the conflict in the story, particularly in regards to the character’s place in it.

This post is on how to identify the type of character the character analysis is dealing with. Another post will help describe the character. A third discusses the conflict in the story, particularly in regards to the character’s place in it.

There are different kinds of characters.

Characters can be

  • protagonists (heroes), The main character around whom most of the work revolves.
  • antagonists, The person who the protagonist is against. This is often the villain, but could be a force of nature, set of circumstances, an animal, etc.
  • major, These are the main characters. They dominate the story. Often there are only one or two major characters.
  • minor, These are the characters who help tell the major character’s tale by letting major characters interact and reveal their personalities, situations, stories. They are usually static (unchanging).
  • dynamic (changing), See this post.
  • static (unchanging),
  • stereotypical (stock), This is the absent minded professor, the jolly fat person, the clueless blonde.
  • foils, These are the people whose job is to contrast with the major character.  This can happen in two ways.  One: The foil can be the opposite of the major character, so the major’s virtues and strengths are that much “brighter” in reflection.  Two: The foil can be someone like the major character, with lite versions of the major’s virtues and strengths so that the major comes off as even stronger.
  • round (3 dimensional), This means the character has more than one facet to their personality. They are not just a hardcore gamer, but they also play basketball on the weekends.
  • flat (1 dimensional), This is the character who is only viewed through one side. This is the hardcore gamer. That’s all there is to the character.


Protagonists can follow literary patterns or types:

  • the anti-hero (Holden Caufield), This is the guy your mother would not want you or your sister to date. They are often graceless, inept, and actually dishonest.
  • the tragic hero (Oedipus, Macbeth), This is the guy whose bad end is a result of flaws within himself.
  • the romantic hero (Don Juan, James Bond), This is the guy the girls all swoon over. He gets the girls, even when he doesn’t want to keep them.
  • the modern hero (Chuck Bartowski), This is the average guy who is put in extraordinary circumstances and rises to the challenge.
  • the Hemingway hero, This is the guy who has been in a war, drinks too much, gets his girlfriend pregnant, and she dies. Or guys like him.


 Also see another way to write a character analysis: a personnel review.

For tips on the process of writing a character analysis:
How to Write a Character Analysis: Introduction
How to Write a Character Analysis: Body Paragraphs
How to Write a Character Analysis: Titles
How to Write a Character Analysis: Concluding Paragraph

If this post was helpful to you, please leave a note in the comments to let me know. You could point out what was most helpful, so that I will know what I might want to expand later.

{ 8 trackbacks }

Blog Reflection 2 for BTM – Character (10 points) | eng 272b Literatures of Hawai‘i
02.12.13 at 2:19 pm
Sign of the Beaver Book Club Ideas & Unit Study | Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood
09.15.14 at 2:38 pm
Your writing tasks for Half Broke Horses | Halfbroguide
11.07.15 at 5:17 am
Week of 4/25 | mrsrust
04.28.16 at 10:52 am
Final Project: Extended Character Analysis Option – The GWU Film Critic
08.13.16 at 4:20 am
A Matter of Character (Chapt.1) – The GWU Film Critic
08.31.16 at 10:17 pm
Everyone Needs a Hero (Chapt. 1) – The GWU Film Critic
08.31.16 at 10:30 pm
Unit 10.2: Research: Sherlock- Moriarty character analysis. – Kiera Bennett
02.24.17 at 3:35 am

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 lucy 11.13.12 at 1:19 pm

Thankyou this was very helpful for my LAMDA.

2 Nora 11.17.12 at 3:54 pm

Thank God I found this. My Odysseus essay is still going to be difficult though. 😛

3 Ali 02.11.13 at 5:41 pm

Thank you……this helped because every thing was a blur but now every thing is all clear….

4 Madison 08.22.13 at 11:12 am

I’m in ninth grade taking Honors English and this helped me so much to write my character analysis!

5 andy michael 01.21.14 at 7:07 am

THIS DOES HELP A LOT! Thank you so much.

6 Elsie 05.20.14 at 6:45 pm

Hi! Do you mind if I use your sources in my classes? With attribution of course?

7 Dr Davis 08.11.14 at 2:20 pm


I thought I had already answered this, but apparently not.

Not at all. That is what they are up here for. Feel free to use them. You might also give students the URL. Then if they lose what you handed out, they can still look it up.

8 willem 09.17.16 at 12:19 pm

Really helpful!

9 Carston 09.19.16 at 5:11 pm

I am trying to expand on the definition of a dynamic character but I could not find it. Under the dynamic character definition it said, “See below under ‘Look at specific things.'” What did you mean by this?

10 Olivia Messer 09.22.16 at 9:38 am

This helped so much I could not thank you enough.

11 rebecca 10.30.16 at 9:57 am

thanks so much it was so helpful

12 Lin 02.05.17 at 1:01 pm

This was so helpful for saving me some lesson prep time! My students are doing projects and I want them to understand character analyzation for their upcoming assignment about introducing “unsung heroes!”

13 Dr Davis 02.19.17 at 12:30 pm

I apologize. The post became too long and I cut it up, but didn’t realize that the discussion on dynamic character was moved out of this post. You can find a more detailed discussion of dynamic character at this post.

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