Characterization Reading Response Exercise

Characterization Reading Response Exercise; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesReading fiction and reflecting on, writing about, and discussing what has been read is a great way to build reading comprehension and other reading skills, as well as deepen understanding of the various elements of fiction.

For the writer, it is a way to learn the craft by examining and analyzing the practices of others.


Read a novel or short story for fifteen to twenty minutes.


Think about what you have read.


  • Make a list of things you like about a character in the story.
  • Pick one trait from the list and explain why you like it.
  • Explain how this trait contributed to your liking of the character.


Share your response with your reading partner, partners, or as a comment here.  If you share here, please remember to include the title of the book and its author. Your “response” could prove intriguing enough that someone else might like to read that book as well.

Building Pre-readers’ Literacy Skills

Read a picture book that contains a storyline together.


Ask your pre-reader which character they liked best. Once your pre-reader has identified a character, ask what he or she liked best about that character.


Enjoy a lively “book talk” with your pre-reader!

Your Turn

How did it go? Please share any of your actual responses, observations, or comments. Let’s encourage one another!


Pinterest Interest: Writing, Settings, History, and More!

I love Pinterest. Pinning and seeing what others have pinned is one of my favorite activities when I ‘m feeling tired.

What do I pin? What don’t I pin!

Okay, really, what do I pin? I pin posts from this blog, of course. I also pin in the topics of reading, writing, history (I love history!), art, crafting, and more. (You can visit my pinboards at Debby Zigenis-Lowery.)

Some of my pin boards were getting so full, that I would “weed” them so they would not be unmanageable to browse. However, much to my delight, this winter Pinterest enabled categories within boards, and I am now working to combine some boards using categories within them (to keep down my overall board count) and to categorize the contents of my bigger boards.

It’s been a big job, but I’ve finally organized my “professional” boards (Writing, Settings, and History), so now seemed like a good time to share.

Writing Boards

These boards, as the title suggests relate to writing, both personal and professional, with a focus on fiction, in general, and fantasy, in particular. In the writing section of my Pinterest collection you will find topics such as:

…and more.


I have an entire section just for setting inspiration. It includes different types of landscape/ecosystems, as well as settings created by or populated by people, such as:

Most of these collections contain categories, some as simple as “interior” and “exterior,” others as complicated as grouping “types.”


Because I am fascinated by history, and most of my novels are some form of “folkloric” or “historical” fantasy, I was thrilled with the ability Pinterest provided, first for collecting information and images on the topics of history, society, home & family life, and fashion, and now for actually categorizing them neatly within their eras.

In addition, I keep learning more and more about history as I collect. (I love it!) My history boards are arranged semi chronologically. This section contains boards for:

As a bit of a medieval, Jane Austen, and turn of the 20th Century fan, I am still working to make my boards more inclusive of all the cultures of the world. I’m a long way from succeeding. However, as I would not feel qualified to write about these cultures, my boards will probably always end up being more Euro-centric.

More, More, & Still More!

I also have boards for other activities and topics. Feel free to pop by and visit, but be warned, I have not had time to combine and categorize everything.

Your Turn

Are you on Pinterest?  What kinds of items do you love to collect? Share the name of your Pinterest board in the comments section below, and tell us a few of the topics you favor. It would be so fun to visit and see what you have!

Reading Response/Writing Prompt for Characterization

Characterization Reading Response Writing PromptSome of my most viewed posts are the ones I create for use in the classroom. Thank you, teachers! However reading response exercises are not only useful in teaching reading, but for helping fiction writers develop their stories. Today’s focus: Characterization.

Characterization Reading Response

What is the main character (or one of the supporting characters) in today’s reading grateful for?

This question helps to build students inferential reading skills, as it is not particularly likely their selection will have dealt with the topic of gratitude. Students will need to look for clues in the text that help them understand what the character likes, what the character longs for, what the character values, in order to infer what this character is grateful for.

Characterization Writing Prompt

What is the main character, or a supporting character in your story or novel grateful for?

Strong characters are created, not when we sit down and list their traits, values, and preferences, but when these things are demonstrated through your character’s actions, words, thoughts, and feelings–especially sensory feelings. This is the season for Thanksgiving, so leverage that holiday feeling by imagining what your main character or other characters are grateful for.

Your Turn

Can you share what you are reading? How about providing the author and title of the work, and one of the things a main character is grateful for.

Writing? Whose character did you develop today? What is he/she grateful for?

I love to hear from you. Happy reading and writing, and thanks for joining me here at Literate Lives!


Teacher’s File Drawer: Character-Based Reading Response Exercise

Good teachers know, the more time our students spend reading or writing, the more they strengthen both their reading and writing skills. Using reading response exercises after a timed reading, either of a class novel or self-selected novel, gives our students time to practice both.

To make it easy for you to incorporate this practice in your classroom, feel free to use the reading response jpg below.

Character-Based Reading Response

Character-Based Reading

Your Turn

l have always loved reading my students’ responses to literature. I’d love it if you would share any responses that delighted you. (Of course, do not use student names to protect privacy.) Enjoy!


Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #87: Guess Your Age

bday cakeThis weekend was my birthday, and a very nice birthday it was. On Saturday, my husband and I went out to lunch with our younger son. The restaurant where we ate decorates it’s wall with plaques containing rhymes, quotes, and other thought-provoking or food-celebrating sayings.

Across from our table was a plaque that read:

  • If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you say you are?

Hmmm? Pretty apt for a birthday lunch.

Now, I’m not going to tell you how old I am or how I’d reply, but I couldn’t help thinking that was a darn good writing prompt. How old would you say you are? Why? Write about it.

Writing fiction? Choose a character you are still trying to figure out and ask him/her the question and demand an explanation.

If you feel like sharing your responses, please reply. Maybe you will even tempt me to share my response with you!

SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference

Hockey-Players-Final-1024x744Last weekend I attended the fabulous SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference, in Wilsonville Oregon. The conference consisted of a Saturday full of workshops–my two favorites: Rosanne Parry‘s “Character and the 7 Deadly Sins” and Susan Blackaby‘s “Poetry: Rhyme, Reason, and Tricks of the Trade.” In Rosanne’s workshop I learned how to use a character’s primary temptations, as well as his or her inherent cardinal virtue, to deepen and better delineate his or her character in planning, writing, or revising my novels. It is a strategy I am eager to apply to my works in progress as well as my future writing.

In Susan’s class we got to play with words. How I love to play with words! She taught the techniques of poetry–assonance, consonance, alliteration, rhythm, rhyme…and we got to practice them crafting poems. These techniques, Suz pointed out and I have always believed, are also useful in crafting memorable prose.

Sunday was the day for intensive workshops. Since YA is primarily what I write, I spent most of my time in the YA track. However, I strayed, and was glad I did, for the midday session offered by Susan Dobinick on “Fantasy and Magic in Middle Grade.” It turned out what she had to say about fantasy and world building was every bit as applicable to YA as it was to MG fiction. And, she led us in a fabulously fun, group writing exercise for turning a realistic story into a fantasy story and then describing its new realistic storyline. The products we produced as a group were hilarious, and the effort underscored the fact that magic is not what fantasy fiction is about. Excellent fantasy fiction, like all fiction, is about an individual or group of individuals challenges and struggles and how their experiences alters them.

This year’s SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference was outstanding. Thank you so much Judi Gardner, Susan Ford, and all the members of the steering community who worked so hard to make this a memorable event.

Dialogue Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #54: Only My Friends Know for Sure

List three things only a good friend would know about you.

List three things only a character’s good friend would know about him or her in one of your stories.

Now write a scene between this friend and your character where the friend demonstrates what he or she knows about your character without saying a word describing it. (Don’t get me wrong. There can be dialogue. The two can talk, whisper, or scream, whatever the scene demands. The only words they cannot exchange are those about what the friend knows.)

When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share here as a comment. Compliment one another on the strengths of the dialogue: its realism and the effectiveness of word choices to reveal mood, tone, and what lies beneath the surface of what is being said and done.

This prompt was adapted from Emily Whitman‘s YA novel talk at the SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference last May. For information on this year’s Spring Conference, click here.

A Character’s New Year’s Resolutions: Fiction Reading Response Exercise #66

Happy new year and welcome back for another year of literate living!


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read.


Choose a character from your reading. What would be a good new year’s resolution for this character? Explain why you think this. When you are done, share your responses with your reading partners.

Play With Your Words Prompt #32 Dreamers: An Exercise in Characterization

Steven Spielberg once said, “I dream for a living.”

Create a character who truly does dream for a living. It could be a realistic or historical character. Or it could be a fantastic, out-of-this-world character. As you develop your character, consider the following questions:

  • What is your character’s occupation?
  • How does dreaming relate to his or her work?
  • Give your character a name?
  • Where does he or she live?
  • What does he or she love?
  • If someone met your character on the street or at a party, describe what he or she might see.

For a bonus exercise: Put your character in a scene that contains action, dialogue, and conflict. Have fun!

When done, share your work with your writing partners. Enjoy the variety of characters you came up with as a group. Compliment one another on the strengths in his or her character description. Identify the details you like or find particularly vivid.

As usual, I invite you to share your writing as a comment. I would love to see the scenes and characters you have created.

Also, to help me serve you better please answer the following questions and post them as a comment to any of this week’s (May 20-26) blogs.

  1. Are you a writer, student, teacher, or parent? If none of these, how would you describe yourself?
  2. What part of this blog is most useful to you?
  3. Which part of this blog do you most enjoy?
  4. What would you like to see more of?

Play with Your Words Writing Prompt #29: Take a Seat

This week’s creative writing prompt will ask you to practice your characterization skills or to exercise your descriptive writing with a focus on setting.

Look at the picture below:

Chairs for Writing Prompt
Choose a chair for a setting or character-based writing exercise.

Choose one chair.

Describe the character (or critter) that would have that chair in his home or her office or its bedroom, or who might wish to own the chair. What does that chair say about that character’s personality? About her hopes and plans, his fears and challenges. Now create a scene in which this chair is featured. Reveal what you’ve learned about your character through his or her actions, speech, and thoughts.


Describe a room in which this chair sits. What sits beside it? What other furnishings are in the room? Is it carpeted, slate floored, out-of-doors? What is the mood of the space? Time of day? Now, create a scene that takes place in this environment you have created. Bring in two or more characters and have them interact. Be sure your chair makes an appearance in the scene.

When done share your choice of chair and your writing with your writing partners. Compliment each other on the strengths you see in the writing. Ask questions concerning the things about which you would like to know more.

Have fun together!

For Preschoolers:   Show him the picture of the chairs. Ask her to pick a chair she likes. Talk about the chair a little bit. Ask him who the chair belongs to, what this character or critter is like, and what kind of things the character or critter who likes this chair would like. Write down the child’s response and leave room for her to draw her own picture of the person and the chair.

When done, read the child’s words back to him, pointing to each word as you say it (to reinforce the one-to-one relationship of spoken and written word). Display your child’s handiwork somewhere she can enjoy it and share it with others.

These chairs were featured in an ad for Furniture by Lee, in the November 2010 issue of Traditional Home magazine.