Create A Character Map

Maps help readers understand characters.

Characters are at the heart of good storytelling. Think how important Scarlett O’Hara and Frodo Baggins are to their novels. Character maps offer students a quick, visual way to study characters. Rather than writing pages of analysis, the student plucks out important character traits—Scarlett’s courage or Frodo’s persistence. Students then insert the traits into boxes on a character map. Character maps are not just for students. Writers use them too as a way of understanding the characters they’re creating. Teachers can also use character maps to see that students have actually done the reading.

Instructions

1. Choose how you’re going to make the map. You can draw it by hand and make photocopies. You can use your computer’s drawing software. There are also templates online you can download. Some are free. Some require you to subscribe to a teaching service.

2. Decide on the tone of the map. If you’re a teacher creating a map for young students, you may want to use circles or cloud-like shapes as the boxes where traits will be inserted. A college professor might prefer more serious looking rectangles.

3. Put the character’s name in the center. Names are key to understanding character. Consider how differently we would view Scarlett O’Hara had her author decided to name her Lois O’Hara.

4. Decide on the first wave of questions you want to ask. These will go on the boxes in the first ring around the name. The initial level of questions will probably be simple: How old is she? What color is her hair?

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5. Consider a second ring of questions. Here you might go deeper and add questions that require more thought. What type of clothes does the character wear? Who is her best friend?

6. Keep adding rings of questions until the map is as thorough as you want it to be. You can add as many trait boxes as you want.