The character sketch, sometimes called a characterization or profile, blends physical characteristics
and actions to focus on one or two dominant traits of a real or imaginary person.
The character sketch is a type of writing that involves the skills of observation, description,
recollection, choice of fact and opinion, and arrangement of details.
When you write a character sketch, you are trying to introduce the reader to someone. You want the
reader to have a strong mental image of the person, to know how the person talks, to know the
person's characteristic ways of doing things, to know something about the person's value system.
Character sketches only give snapshots of people; therefore, you should not try to write a history of
Chose Your Subject
For your character sketch, choose a person whom you know well. It could be a family member or
relative; it could be someone who is a role model for you -- someone you look up to or admire. You
could also choose to write about a close friend. Whomever you chose, it should be someone who has
been in some way important in your life.
Use the pre-writing questions on the next page to help you gather your ideas and information about
Determine The Focus
Which of the characteristics you listed in your prewriting give the impression you want your reader to
have of the person? Use these one or two dominant qualities as the main focus of your essay.
Organize Your Ideas
Start with a catchy attention getting device about your character to grab your audience’s
Possible ways to begin the character sketch:
Use a Quote
Ask a Question
Tell a Story
Use attention-getting words
Write a topic/introductory paragraph which states the main focus of your character’s
personality. Tell the importance of the character or provide background information
Each Paragraph = 1 main characteristic + convincing details and examples of description, action,
and conversation + transitions to connect paragraphs.
Summarize the importance that person has for you
Make a generalization about the person
Give an additional reflection on the person
Your essay should be 450-500 words.
Important Items To Remember
A. Use description appealing to the five senses that will bring your character to life.
B. Use action verbs, along with vivid, precise word choices.
C. Include dialogue so your audience can hear and experience your character.
D. SHOW the character and his/her actions instead of just telling about him/her.
E. Focus on one or two main aspects of your character’s personality.
Read these two sample essays. Which do you think is a better description of the
person? Explain in some detail why you think that one was better. Write your
response in a word document or in an e-mail and send it to me at email@example.com
Sample Student Essay 1- Character Sketch
His slight bent knees and hunched back made it inconvenient for Grandpa to
walk correctly. He walked at such a slow pace. He wore corded slippers that were
too big for him. I remember being in the front room and hearing the clippity-clop
of his slippers as he walked from the kitchen to the front room. Grandpa’s
slippers were always too big for his big feet.
Likewise, his belt had to hold up his sagging pants that were too big for him.
Grandpa had a tremendously big wardrobe; however, I never saw him wearing
anything but his old khaki trousers that were too big and a white T-shirt. He
wore the same things until they were so worn out that they couldn’t be worn
anymore. . . .
Grandpa lived by what he preached. He always said that we, the grandchildren,
should read and write every day. He himself kept shaky handwritten day-to-day
notes of his activities and his yellow stained fingers, the majority of the time,
were clenched onto a newspaper. When I visited him, he wanted us to read to
him a story book or the Bible. He sat on his favorite reclining chair, which had
been already molded to the shape of his body. Then, I sat on his lap and lay my
back against his protruding belly. He had his black-rimmed reading glasses on
his large nose, all set to help me. His bushy white eyebrows rose, his eyes
glistened, and his ears attentively listened.
Waste was one word Grandpa never knew the meaning of. There were times
when I couldn’t finish a meal, so he pushed his empty plate to the side and asked
me to pass mine over. With his greasy face full of food, and jaws working hard to
finish his last bite, he started to clear my plate until it was also spotless. Or,
Grandpa wrapped the food up to snack on it later that night. He never liked it
when good food was thrown to waste. He would have rather stuffed himself full
than to see food thrown out.
He was the same with junkyard clutter as he was with food. What everybody in
our family called junk, is what Grandpa claimed to be his treasures. I visited him
on the weekends and had a field day. He lived in a house that held two flats and
an attic. The three floors were jammed with huge bags full of rubber bands,
empty plastic bags, old clothes, old cologne, old books, hangers, and old
telephones. All the treasures he saved over the years for later use accumulated
to three floors of clutter.
Grandpa was not concerned with what people thought of his treasures or his
poor job of sewing on the gluteous-maximus seamline. He loved his family and
that is all he cared about. He tried to teach the important values of life. To this
day, I unconsciously stuff myself to finish the food on my plate. – Christine
Sample Student Essay 2- Character Sketch
My Friend Liz
My friend Liz is the most amazing friend anybody could ask for. We’ve been
through so much together, we’re basically like sisters. We met on the first day of
school in sixth grade, both of us terrified by the massive size of the middle school.
She had the locker right above mine. I told her I didn’t know anybody in our
class and she said “You do now.” We’ve been friends ever since.
Most boys think Liz is cute. She has long red hair, cascading over her
shoulders. She laughs about everything and when she does, you see about a
hundred white teeth – so bright, you almost need sunglasses. When she laughs,
her eyes grow wide, glowing emerald green. Liz likes to dress kind of skater-ish,
in camouflage pants, sweatshirts, and wristbands. But, she’s unpredictable, too.
Sometimes she’ll wear overalls or a fancy dress. She must have three closets full
of clothes, because she barely ever wears the same outfit twice.
Liz is the most lively, animated character I’ve ever known. She’s always
rushing around, trying to get the latest scoop on everybody. It’s like she’s in the
FBI. Right before she shares important news, Liz tosses back her hair, takes a
deep breath, and quickly looks side to side, to be sure the coast is clear. She
never says anything mean about people, she just wants to know what’s going on.
She always supports me in everything I want to do. Not many girls in our
group of friends play sports, but when I told Liz I wanted to go out for basketball,
she said “Go for it.” Now, she comes to see almost every game I play and cheer
Not only is Liz a tremendous supporter, she also trusts me to give her my
honest opinion and to say what I feel. Last year, she thought Mrs. Jones gave her
a lower math grade than she deserved. I told her the truth – that Liz handed
everything in late and what did she expect? Next marking period, Liz got her
work in on time, and pulled off an A-. Thanks to me, she said. Liz is a wonderful
listener. She lets me tell her all my problems and she never diminishes the
importance of my worries. I can tell she’s really listening, too, because she looks
directly in my eyes the whole time, like she’s trying to see inside my head and
figure me out.
We don’t always agree on everything, and sometimes we even fight like
sisters. But, in the end, we always stick together.
Pre-Writing Questions for the Character Sketch
1. Name a person who has made a difference in your life or been important to you and
explain what the importance has been.
2. If the person is a family member, where do you see him/her most often? If the
person is not a family member, where did you meet him/her?
3. What do other people think of this person? What might other people say about
4. Picture this person. Describe him/her in as much detail as you can. Include facial
features, physical appearance, clothing, manner of speech.
5. What is his or her most unusual characteristic? What would someone who meets
him or her for the first time be most likely to notice--or least likely to notice?
6. How does his/her appearance reflect his/her personality?
7. When you picture this person, what do you think of him/her doing?
8. How is this person’s view of life different from that of most other people?
9. Describe something special or memorable that happened between you. This should
be an incident that shows how this person has made a difference in your life.