Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Character description is a key component in a well-written composition. In primary school, students are usually taught to begin their compositions with dialogue, a sound, weather description, a captivating question, flashback or character descriptions.  With the implementation of the new PSLE composition format, knowing how to begin a composition with character description is  more vital than ever before.

Unlike the old format, topics under the new PSLE composition format are usually character-driven.  If a student is able to create and describe a vivid and engaging character, this character will be able to drive the plot and move the story along.

How To Describe A Character?

Character descriptions come in two ways – the inward traits and the outward traits of a character.

Inward traits refer to the personality of the character while outward traits refer to the appearance.

Describing A Character’s Outward Traits

When describing a character’s outward traits, we describe his or her physical appearance.  Are there any interesting traits of this character’s appearance?Some common areas to describe are:

1 ) The size of the character
Eg. Towers over all his classmates, big-sized, petite, skinny…

2) The facial features
Eg. Thick eyebrows, wrinkled face, small eyes, rosy cheeks…

3) The way he/she walks
Eg. Walks with a limp…

An important point to take note of is, no matter what physical traits you are describing, the key is to focus on the traits that are related to the topic of the composition.

Describing A Character’s Inward Traits

This applies to the inward traits too. When you are describing a character’s inward traits or personality, the important thing is to focus on the personality that is related to the topic of the composition.

If the composition topic is on helping an elderly, it does not make sense if you create a character who is a terror, a bully in school, or someone who is dishonest and cheats in an examination.  Those traits are not related to the composition topic at all and it does not help you to develop the plot of your story.

Writing A Character-Description Introduction

Here are some examples of how you can begin a composition by describing a character with traits that are relevant to the composition topic.

Character: A Poor Beggar

Jason walked past the old beggar. Sitting on the floor next to the MRT station, he looked pitiful with his clothes torn and tattered. Without hesitation, Jason took out a dollar coin from his wallet and placed it in the box. The old beggar did not respond but continued staring blankly at the ground in front of him.

Character: An Elderly

Madam Lim loved her plants. Every morning and evening, she could be seen at the corridor outside her flat, bending over and tending to her precious pots of plants. She would greet everyone who walked past her. Sometimes, you could hear her husky voice humming softly as she watered the plants, her weak hands trembling under the weight of the heavy watering can.

Character: The Bully

Dexter was a big-sized Primary 5 boy who towered over all his classmates. Looking more like a teenager with his muscular arms and broad shoulders, he was feared by many students. His thick eyebrows and menacing eyes made him look as if he was ready to pounce on anyone who dared to go near him.

Character: The Victim

James was scared of going to school. To him, school was a place of torture and ridicule.  Small-built and skinny, James was the shortest boy in his class. He was also the quietest. James was a bright student who usually topped his class, but instead of being confident, James was as timid as a mouse.

Featured Students’ Writing with Character Descriptions

These are some of my students’ earlier pieces of work, when they first started writing character descriptions:

Character: A greedy boy

James loved food. He loved it so much that he could not live past an hour without food. As a result, James had outgrown most of his clothes. His stomach bulged out of his overly-tight T-shirts. Walking up a few flight of stairs made him pant wearily.

Character: A shy and timid girl

Jaslyn is afraid of everything. From cockroaches to thunders, tiny beetles to noises in the dark. Every night, she has to sleep with the lights on. She gets easily startled by little noises. Going to the toilet alone gives her the shivers. She dislikes going out of the house alone because she is afraid of meeting people.

Character: A bully

Example 1
Alex was a tall boy with messy hair. He towered over his classmates. He would take other’s lunch money and use it for himself. Everyone was scared of Alex and said he was as fierce as a lion.

Example 2
Alex is as strong as an ox. He has unkempt hair and his shirt is always tucked out. Alex towers over his classmates. He is very mean and likes to use vulgarities. He always demands money from people. Alex is always being scolded by his teachers. Despite several warnings, he continues to bully others.

Character: A frail old man

Uncle Wolly walked with a limp.  He was so old that he had to use a walking stick when he walked. He had trembling hands and wrinkled skin. His arms were as bony as skeletons. He always flashed a toothless smile and mumbled a weak “Hello” whenever he saw me.

Character: A grumpy old lady

Example 1
Mrs Charlotte hated children. She would raise her clenched fist whenever a child came near her house. She would glare at the person and give him an ice-cold frown.

Example 2
Mrs Charlotte was as grumpy as a hungry bear.  Whenever someone walked past her house and greeted her politely, instead of replying nicely, she would yell at them to go away.  The worst thing was Mrs Charlotte hated children. She had small fiery eyes and an ice-cold frown.



As with all other writing techniques, it takes practice to write a vivid and captivating character description.  What you can do is to get your child to practise describing some characters that can be used in their compositions. Focus on describing the character’s inward and outward traits.

Do share your kids’ writing with me! I’d be glad to read them!