How to create a character

Learning focus

To explore how characters are created and to write a character description.

This lesson includes:

  • one video about creating characters

  • one video of ex-England player Eniola Aluko reading an extract from Matilda by Roald Dahl

  • three activities, plus an extra challenge

Learn

When authors create a new character they have to know everything about them. This means answering a lot of questions about what that character is like.

Watch this short clip to see how this is done.

Authors need to know everything about their characters so they know how they will act throughout the story.

They ask themselves questions like:

  • What's the character's name?
  • How does the character behave?
  • What do they like to do?
  • How old are they?
  • What do they feel and what are they thinking?

Play the following clip in which ex-England player Eniola Aluko reads an extract from Matilda by Roald Dahl.

Focus carefully on the conversation between Matilda and Miss Trunchbull and think about what each character is like.

Eniola Aluko reads an extract from 'Matilda' by Roald Dahl.

Practise

You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Think back to the clip - what do we learn about Matilda and Miss Trunchbull?

Copy and complete the tables below with at least 2 points for each character that are supported by evidence from the clip.

An example has been given to help you.

Top tip! Thinking about what the characters say and do will help.

What do you learn about Matilda?What is your evidence?
1. She is a schoolgirl.She is sitting at a desk in a classroom.
2.
3.
What do you learn about Miss Trunchbull?What is your evidence?
1.
2.
3.

Activity 2

Imagine you are writing a story set in a school, like in Matilda.

You’re going to create a character who would be in that story. It could be anyone – the head teacher, a teacher, a student, a coach or a caretaker.

Jot down some notes under the following headings to build a profile for your character.

  • My character’s name

  • My character’s personality

  • My character’s job

  • How my character behaves

  • How my character speaks

  • How my character reacts to others

  • My character’s strength/weakness

  • How others would describe my character

If you like, you could also draw your character in the centre of a sheet of paper and add labels to describe their appearance.

Activity 3

We use dialogue (direct speech) in a story to help the reader to understand a character's personality. This means that as a writer you need to think about not only what your character says but also how they say it.

  • Think about a character from a book you have heard or read. It could be a character from Matilda. Imagine your character in different situations, asking yourself how they might react or behave in those situations.

  • Write down a short sentence containing a word that shows how you think your character would speak in the situations below.

Examples of words you could use are shouted, muttered, whimpered, whispered or exclaimed. Try to be as inventive as you can!

1. If your character lost their purse/wallet

For example: My character would yell!

2. If somebody pushed in front of your character in a queue

3. If your character was hungry

4. If your character missed their train

5. If your character won the lottery

Challenge yourself!

Choose one of the situations from Activity 3 and see if you can extend your answer into a whole paragraph.

Really bring your character to life by thinking about:

  • What your character says and how they say it.
  • What your character does and how they do it.
  • What happens next?

Where next?

In this lesson you have explored how characters are created and written your own character description.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you improve your creative writing.

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