Direct and Indirect Characterization: OSCAR

By Rebecca Ray

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OSCAR Character Analysis
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OSCAR is an acronym designed to help readers understand direct and indirect characterization. Through the use of OSCAR, as a reading and writing strategy, readers are asked to think and write about the different ways they learn about a character.

What are Direct and Indirect Characterization?

As readers interact with a story, relevant information about important characters is revealed through direct and indirect characterization.

Direct Characterization most often occurs when the author specifically reveals traits of the character to the reader. When the author or narrator explicitly states something about the character, this is direct characterization. Here, the reader can learn a character's thoughts, feelings, physical characteristics, or motivations.

Indirect Characterization is when the reader learns about the character indirectly. The reader has to infer or assume information about the character based on interactions that are not straightforward. For example, indirect characterization can be learned through: a character's dialogue, how other characters see them, their actions, how they treat others or their relationships, and how they treat themselves or view their overall place in the world.

Can you guess which example is direct characterization and which is indirect?

"I watched Aaron as his face turned white, and his hands began to shake as they hovered over the phone." Indirect characterization: The reader assumes that Aaron is upset because his face turned white, and his hands were shaking. When the reader assumes or infers information based on what they read, it is indirect characterization.
"Stephanie is a tall, beautiful woman with amazing artistic abilities." Direct characterization: The reader is explicitly told that Stephanie is a tall, beautiful woman. It was said in a direct, straightforward way.
"Hey Sarah, thanks for lending me that outfit; it must have been expensive." Indirect characterization: Nothing is stated about Sarah. Instead, the reader infers information about her through the dialogue. For instance, when her friend thanks her, it suggests that she is a good friend. Also, when her friend mentions that it must have been expensive, the reader could assume that Sarah has money, or is very generous.


OSCAR Helps You Answer the Questions:

Breaking Down OSCAR

O - Other Characteristics What do other characters say about the character?
S - Speech What does the character say about others or themselves? How can we infer meaning and traits from what a character says?
C - Physical Characteristics What does the character look like? What descriptive words are used to describe them?
A - Author's Attitude How does the author feel about this character?
R - Reader's Reaction How do you, as the reader, feel about the character?

Create a Storyboard 

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Make Your Own OSCAR  

Create a Storyboard 

(This will start a 2-Week Free Trial - No Credit Card Needed)

Application: What Do I Do When Reading a Novel?

When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. By creating a character map in Storyboard That, readers can record subtle information, helping them follow along and catch the nuances that make reading more enjoyable!

Classroom Extension: How Do I Use This in My Classroom?

Make Your Own OSCAR  

  1. Choose a novel or short story that contains three or more characters.

  2. Copy the OSCAR template.

  3. Replace the “NAME” placeholder with the name of each character.

  4. While reading, look for each type of characterization OSCAR style. Write direct quotes that answer each letter of the mnemonic device. These direct quotes will show the use of indirect or direct characterization.

  5. Before completion, choose a Storyboard That character to portray each character from the novel. Using the drag and drop feature, place them in the box to the left. You can even add a background, like in the example below!

Example Project for Lord of the Flies

Make Your Own OSCAR  

Example Rubric

After Completing the Storyboard - Follow up Discussion

When readers have completed their storyboard, they should think and write about the direct and indirect characterization, based on the recorded evidence.

Using their answers to OSCAR, they should ask and answer the following questions:

  1. What do you know about the character? How do you know that?

  2. Who are they?

  3. How do others see them?

  4. How do you, as a reader, see them?

  5. Why do you think the author feels (insert adjective) about that character?

Pat yourself on the back, you are now a characterization pro and you have the completed storyboard to prove it!

Create a Storyboard 

(This will start a 2-Week Free Trial - No Credit Card Needed)

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Prefer a different language?

•   (English) OSCAR - Direct and Indirect Characterization   •   (Español) OSCAR - Caracterización Directa e Indirecta   •   (Français) OSCAR - Caractérisation Directe et Indirecte   •   (Deutsch) OSCAR - Direkte und Indirekte Charakterisierung   •   (Italiana) OSCAR - Diretto e Indiretto Caratterizzazione   •   (Nederlands) OSCAR - Directe en Indirecte Karakterisering   •   (Português) OSCAR - Caracterização Direta e Indireta   •   (עברית) OSCAR - ישיר ואפיון עקיף   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) OSCAR - المباشر وغير المباشر توصيف   •   (हिन्दी) ऑस्कर - प्रत्यक्ष और अप्रत्यक्ष विशेषता   •   (ру́сский язы́к) OSCAR - Прямые и Косвенные Характеристика   •   (Dansk) OSCAR - Direkte og Indirekte Karakterisering   •   (Svenska) OSCAR - Direkt och Indirekt Karakterisering   •   (Suomi) OSCAR - Suora ja Epäsuora Karakterisointi   •   (Norsk) OSCAR - Direkte og Indirekte Karakterisering   •   (Türkçe) OSCAR - Doğrudan ve Dolaylı Karakterizasyon   •   (Polski) OSCAR - Bezpośrednia i Pośrednia Charakterystyka   •   (Româna) OSCAR - Directă și Indirectă Caracterizarea   •   (Ceština) OSCAR - Přímé a Nepřímé Charakterizace   •   (Slovenský) OSCAR - Priama a Nepriama Charakterizácia   •   (Magyar) OSCAR - Közvetlen és Közvetett Jellemzése   •   (Hrvatski) OSCAR - Izravna i Neizravna Karakterizacija   •   (български) OSCAR - Директна и Индиректна Характеристика   •   (Lietuvos) Oscar - Tiesioginis ir Netiesioginis Apibūdinimas   •   (Slovenščina) OSCAR - Neposredno in Posredno Karakterizacija   •   (Latvijas) OSCAR - Tieša un Netieša Raksturojums   •   (eesti) OSCAR - Otsene ja Kaudne Iseloomustus