Over the course of the quarter, we generated a list of “aspects of character”: elements of both literary form and descriptive content that, together, make up the fictional character. The Character Encyclopedia offers analyses of some of these aspects, and many more are addressed in the Discussion Posts (searchable using the tag cloud on your right, or the search form). This page contains the complete Aspects of Character list, moving from more content-based aspects at the top to more purely formal aspects at the bottom. We hope that you find it useful.





Subjective memories

Socioeconomic status (class)




Sexual orientations in the moment (who are they attracted to/who comes on to them, in what settings, with what frequency)

Positionality within the text (how characters define themselves against and through other characters)



Internal logic/moral code (consistency as well as content)



Style (personal idiosyncrasies)

Costume and clothing



Personal history/background

Unconscious mind

Relationship to objects (what is treasured and what is disposable)

Relationships with other characters

Relationship to other works of art – what do they identify with and how?

Self-awareness (either intradiegetic, awareness of self as person, or metafictional, awareness of status as fictional character)

Personhood (are they granted personhood within the text, and to what extent/how consistently?)

Proper name

Character-status (marked/treated as character within the text rather than some other kind of narrative object or agent)


Internal monologue

Primacy of attention within narrative economy

Development (changing over time)

Consistency vs inconsistency of description/construction

Interaction with plot (able to establish or alter events, momentum, etc)/degree of narrative agency

Modes of action – cause and effect (whether given or not)

Conflict (internal or external)

Physiognomy (physical description)

Dynamics: stability vs fluidity

Reliable vs unreliable narrator

Prose style


Revelation/unfolding of character (varying degrees of completeness, varying pace, and varying narrative order)

Voice (speaking voice in dialogue and inner “voice” in focalization and free indirect discourse)

Point of view: limited; full; whose?

Historical referent (real-life figures or not)

Dynamics of relationship to reader: identification, relatability, investment, sympathy, likability


Intertextuality (both in terms of texts that the character quotes/defines themselves by and intertexts alluded to by the author in relation to the character)

Degree of referentiality: is the character an allegory for something else? a metonym? a synecdoche?

Non-referential language around character (symbolism, maxims, etc) – both degree and kind

Genre (of the text the character is in – novel, graphic memoir, film, etc)

Positionality (how the character is set up by the narrator in the act of enunciation)

Identification (degree and kind)