Elements of a Character Sketch

You will need several (3-5+) different colors of highlighters for this activity.

For this activity, you will work in small groups.  Each group will be assigned one or more character sketches taken from The House on Mango Street and There Are No Children Here.  Here is what you must do.

1)      Read the character sketch(es) your group has been assigned silently to yourself.  As you read, focus on how the author has presented the main character(s) in the sketch.  Each text is labeled as to who the main characters are that you should focus on.

2)      Next, work together to do the following.

o       HIGHLIGHT all/most of the lines/words in your text that describe what your character LOOKS LIKE. 

Use one particular color of highlighter to mark this in your text and highlight the bulleted line above in that color so you remember what that color represents.  (If you have more than one text to read, use the same color even though the character might be different in each text.  If your text has more than one character to focus on, highlight both with the same color.)


3)      Ok, that was the easy part.  Now for the hard stuff.  Authors do much more than include physical descriptions of their characters in stories.  They also include other elements to give their characters dimension.  Your job is to re-read the text(s) you were given to uncover what other elements have been used to give the main character(s) in your sketch(es) dimension/depth.  As you re-read, use different highlighters to mark different kinds of information that the author is using to create that character.  Talk to your group mates about what you’re finding as you go.  Make a key as to what the colors mean.  You can write this key right on the text of the story. 


Group A:  Read and study #1 and 3.

Group B:  Read and study #2, 3, and 4.

Group C:  Read and study #5.

Group D:  Read and study #6.

Group E:  Read and study #7.



Sample text for looking at and marking the elements of a character sketch.


Focus on “he” and “she”


from “Popular Mechanics”

by Raymond Carver


Early that day the weather turned and the snow was melting into dirty water. Streaks of it ran down from the little shoulder-high window that faced the backyard. Cars slushed by on the street outside, where it was getting dark. But it was getting dark on the inside too.

He was in the bedroom pushing clothes into a suitcase when she came to the door. I'm glad you're leaving! I'm glad you're leaving! she said. Do you hear?

He kept on putting his things into the suitcase.

Son of a bitch! I'm so glad you're leaving! She began to cry. You can't even look me in the face, can you?

Then she noticed the baby's picture on the bed and picked it up.

He looked at her and she wiped her eyes and stared at him before turning and going back to the living room.

Bring that back, he said.

Just get your things and get out, she said.

He did not answer. He fastened the suitcase, put on his coat, looked around the bedroom before turning off the light. Then he went out to the living room.

She stood in the doorway of the little kitchen, holding the baby.

I want the baby, he said.

Are you crazy?

No, but I want the baby. I'll get someone to come by for his things.

You're not touching this baby, she said.

The baby had begun to cry and she uncovered the blanket from around his head.