Helpful Tips for Writing a Character Analysis Essay

When professors ask their students to write a character analysis essay, they are expecting much more than a description of the character and his or her actions during the story or novel. These instructors want students to examine the character closely, not only looking at their outward appearance and personality but also seeking to understand the motivation behind his or her behaviors. Students should always follow an instructor’s guidelines to the letter, but the following information may also be helpful:

Opening Passages

  • To make this essay easier, choose a character that has more than one dimension and is integrated into the plot until the end of the story or book.
  • Open the essay by giving a physical description of the character based on any direct references or clues given by the author. Explain the reason this character is interesting to you and your reasons for selecting him or her.
  • Using the literary terms available (protagonist, antagonist, catalyst, supporting character, flat character, or round character), give a clear analysis of the way the author portrayed this person in the book.

Characteristics and Motivations

  • Write about any good qualities that the character shows, but also show the reader any flaws in personality that might influence what happens in the plot.
  • Describe the role of this character in the plot. What does he or she desire to achieve and is it worth what the character must do in order to realize such a goal?
  • Analyze any motivating factors that are beneath the surface, causing the character to behave in a manner that is inconsistent with his or her personality or previous actions. Motivating factors such as hunger, greed, love or revenge contribute greatly to the reader’s understanding of a character’s behavior.
  • Consider any symbols in the plot and how they are connected to the character. Be especially mindful of any color symbolism that might help the reader understand this character. 


  • Evaluate the character’s actions in relation to the setting to see if their actions are consistent with other people who lived in the same place at the same time. Do the values, dress, mannerisms or social conventions of that time dictate some of their actions?
  • Discuss the ways in which the character evolved during the events of the story. Is a lesson learned? Does the character change in nature or remain static throughout the book? 
  • In the conclusion, be sure to explain how you felt about the character’s personality and actions. Which actions or personality traits did you find repugnant and with what behaviors or emotions could you identify? 

When writing a character analysis essay, be sure that you do not stray into plot description for the sake of telling a story. Use the events of the story only if they help the reader understand something vital about the character. During the entire essay, remain focused on helping your reader understand the forces that have formed the character and the motivations that make his or her current actions plausible.

Author Bio: Jennifer Lewis writes for a website that has useful advice on college grants for women. She thinks it’s worth women taking the time to find out what financial aid is available to support them in their education.

Categories: Writing Tips   Tags: writing a character analysis essay, character analysis essays