Convincing Characters

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Language Arts, Writing, Writing Process, Traits of Writing

Grade 3- 5


Students learn how to create vivid, active characters.


Creating a believable person requires more than knowing what the character likes and dislikes. There are specific types of characters that authors need to place in their stories. The most common characters, of course, are the hero (protagonist) and the enemy (antagonist). (For brevity's sake, hero will be used to designate both male and female main characters.) Most students will probably produce stories with only these two characters, but more sophisticated writers may want to include other types such as the helper and the wise person.
The hero must be someone with whom the reader can identify, but like a real person, one who cannot be all good. Not all heroes are equally motivated to face the problems that they will encounter within the story. The hero also can be any age and from any walk of life.
The enemy is usually a person who stands in the way of the hero's goal, but it may also be something in the environment. (Spiders and tornadoes come to mind!) Enemies are not necessarily mean; sometimes they just have a point of view that differs from the hero's.
The helper may do a number of things, from pointing out possible solutions to creating comic relief.
The wise person is someone in whom the hero confides or who may have special knowledge that can help the hero obtain his or her goal and experience internal change.
Student Practice
Discuss the characters in works with which you are familiar. Ask students to help create a brief list of novels they have read and discuss the various character types that appear within these books. Think about the nature of each hero. Is each one completely good, or does each have a flaw that gets them into trouble? Who, or what, is the enemy in the book? Is there a wise person? A helper? Any other character types? Provide students with copies of page 38 to help them create characters. For variety, reproduce and laminate page 39, cut out the cards, and make a few sets of character shuffle cards for the class to use. Students can create new and interesting stories based on the characters they choose from the shuffle cards.
As a logical extension, ask students to draft stories using the characters they have created. You may wish to use read-around groups of four or five students in which peer editors judge each other's characters for believability.


  • Story People (page 38)
  • Character Shuffle Cards (page 39)
  • paper
  • pencils

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