Character Study


By Michelle Lynn Senters

KIDS ARE WRITERS is going vintage today. As a writer, I use old photographs to study character. I choose a photo and study the setting, clothing and expression on their face. I imagine their life, what they want, and how they feel. This study often leads to new story ideas.


1. Choose one of the vintage photographs below.
2. Study what is observable about the character. What do they look like? What are they wearing? Where are they? What are they doing?
3. Imagine who they are. What is their name? How do they feel? What are they trying to do? What is the background story to the picture?
4. Write a paragraph introducing the character and their story.
5. Add a clever title.
7. EXTRA: Expand your paragraph into a short story.
6. EXTRA: Choose a different photo for another character study.


In the comment section below, write your first name, age, picture number, title, and paragraph.


Click through the following photographs using the arrows.

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Michelle Lynn Senters is the Founder and Director of KIDS ARE WRITERS. She spends her days working as a Reading Interventionist and spends her evenings writing books for children and adults. You can learn more about Michelle HERE and at

IMPORTANT: Students, NEVER reveal personal information while commenting. NO last names or contact information. I will delete any comments that contain personal information or comments that are inappropriate or off-topic.

18 thoughts on “Character Study

  1. Emily, 13, picture 11, The Summer That Changed My Life, Jonathan was bored. Not just ” ugh I’m so bored” bored, more like “schools been out for three weeks, all my friends are busy, and I’m so bored I was driven to READ of all things” bored. He had attempted everything from juggling to balancing 12 pennies on his head at once. But those only relieved his boredom for so long, until the weight of his boredom crashed down upon him once again and he was left with only himself for company. One day, he decided that he would go exploring. However, he didn’t know where to explore because he wasn’t aloud to leave the house when his parents weren’t home. He wandered around the house for a bit when he came to a stop under a panel on the ceiling of the second floor hallway. Of course! The attic. He would spend the day exploring the attic. With that, he unhooked the latch and a staircase came tumbling down. He climbed up into the vast darkness that his flashlight only penetrated for about 4 feet, unsuspecting of the fact that what he would find up there, would change his life forever.

    • VERY impressive, Emily! I’d love to see you turn that into an entire story. I want to know what is in the attic. If you finish the story, submit it to me on the CONTACT tab at the top of the page and I will publish it on the site. You are off to a great start!

  2. Kaylie, 13. Picture 9.

    Character: Annabel Rose
    Age: 12

    The Big Decision

    I was hoping for a miracle. Something to save me from making the big decision. There was absolutely no way that I would leave my family, my friends, my childhood home behind. Mrs. Trixie said I would become the next big thing, a movie star. She told me moving to California for five years was nothing. It was worth it. I just couldn’t tell myself that. Leaving would mean that I wasn’t accepting myself. But, becoming an actress would mean I could live out my dream. I could be famous, rich, even. My family would never have to live in hunger or work again. The choice was hard. I sat in the park, gazing at the gurgling fountain filled with koi. They looked so happy, content with themselves. The opposite of me. Mrs. Trixie told me I had until evening to make the choice. Suddenly, I knew what to do.

    • Great work, Kaylie! Like Emily, I’d like for you to expand this to an entire story. Send it through the contact form when you are done and I will publish it. Fantastic start! I wonder what she is planning to do…

  3. Bella, 13, picture 14, The Alligator Cart. My name is Emily Swanson and I was always picked on for being a little strange. My father and mother, Gabriel and Carrion Swanson, both died in a fire when I was one, so my grandmother Ruthie had to raise me from then on. She always encouraged me about my strange habits, even when I could tell she didn’t like them.
    I was never one to cry about being picked on, I would stand up and smart off at anyone who laughed, snickered, or pointed at me with a funny face. That, the getting picked on, all changed when my grandma bought me a small cart made out of wood when I was three. The tiny cart was to small to be drawn by the miniature horses normal girls had, but I was okay with that, I would find a way to get to school using this cart.
    I was down by that lake waiting on my grandma to get there, for I was made to sit here for punching Sally May in the nose for calling me the ugly duckling, when I saw a young alligator’s tail. I followed the alligator until it got caught in an old fishing next. As I watched the young alligator got tangled by twisting itself around and thrashing.
    I ran into the water and, using a small knife i found on the ground, cut the poor alligator free. Once it was free I saw it turn and waited for it to snap at me, but instead I felt a scaly skin rubbing against my leg. The alligator was nuzzling me! I quickly grabbed it and ran home, hiding it from my grandmother, I tucked it safely into the pond and named her Swan. The next morning I called Swan’s name and she slide out of the water, waiting patiently as I hooked her to my cart and I told her to go back to the big pond. On my way to school I saw Sally May sneer at me and chat “the ugly duckling has returned”, that is until she saw Swan. Sally May screamed and ran to the school house. When we arrived at the pond’s bank I told Swan to stay where she could here me and she obeyed. From that day forward I was know as Emily, the girl who owns The Alligator Cart!
    I hope you enjoy it!

    • Bella! Great job getting in the whole story! Your varied sentence structure is very well developed.I loved the photo of the girl and the alligator cart. I knew it would inspire someone.

  4. A Girl and her Dog
    My name is Sarah Carson and I have always been small. My dog Teddy is always there to protect me. My daddy around me so they sia he was mine. Teddy is a Blood Hound a big one compared to me. We always walk on the same sidewalk every day and see the same things, the fence, grass, and of course the sidewalk.
    On the first day of school daddy drove Teddy and me. Everyone there laughed, but Teddy made the stop. I said “Just because I am small means nothing.” No one laghed any more after that unless I told a joke, “Knock knock” , ” Whose there?” “Teddy” “Teddy who?” “Teddy the lood Hound!”

  5. Name: Ryan
    Title: No Elephants
    Paragraph: Strictly no elephants?! How does that make any sense. “Oh hi. My name is Louis. I live in 1943 and I work for the circus. The sign doesn’t make sense because our circus is the dancing elephant circus, the most famous in New York. The clothes I am wearing aren’t very nice, because the circus doesn’t pay very well.

  6. I’m Ruthie, I’m 8, and I chose #6, the ‘No Elephants’ picture. Okay, here’s my paragraph:

    Elephant Kid

    My name is Sid and I really really like elephants. I even live on Elephant Street! My favorite food is anything similar to what elephants eat if humans can eat that sort of thing. Maybe they shouldn’t but I do. I love the circus but I don’t go if they don’t have elephants. My mom says I’m crazy. My dad says I’m obsessed. My teacher thinks I’m repetitive because my word story problems always include elephants.
    My pillow is shaped like an elephant, and so is my bed. My favorite color is grey. In art I always make everything a wrinkly texture like an elephant and kids nicknamed me Ellie the Elephant, and they thought I’d be upset. But I love it!

  7. I chose the movie star.

    Hi, my name is Carly. I am working on the set for the movie “The princess bride”. Things are crazy over here and i am taking a break from all this stress, without my makeup, without the hair spray (that can make my hair look blond), and with a different dress on. It is so fun with all the people and props. Well now i got to go back to the film, bye.

    that is a real movie.

  8. Eli 11, and I chose picture #12.

    Title: Funny panda

    This is my pet panda and he is a professional photographer. His name is Jim. He loves taking pictures outside of our house. He is a little short so he has to stand on a chair
    to take pictures.He is funny.

  9. Erik, 12, and I chose Picture #24.

    Old God, Modern Troubles

    Odin the Wise One looked down upon the Great Earth with his one, almighty Eye, his Ravens perched with him, and he sighed a deep, long, mournful sigh. It would probably create a huge tsunami in Japan, but it couldn’t make things worse than they were. War, Distrust, Chaos, Selfishness, Impatience, and Ignorance plagued the Great Earth, along with many others. Odin sighed again, even though he knew he shouldn’t do it.

    Odin signaled to three men standing nearby. One God, two Immortals. A burly, stocky man with a ginormous, round, red-haired beard walked over. He was carrying a War-Hammer (Mjolnr), and a humongous circular shield. Thor stood next to his father, and swore. Another man, also with a huge, red beard, stood taller than Thor, but wasn’t as strong, by a million-fold. Erik The Red drove his Broadsword into the ground next to the Gods, and swore. A brown haired, younger man with a smaller, braided beard walked over, standing next to his father and the Gods. Leif Eriksson leaned on his spear and War-Ax, and swore (hey – they’re vikings – give them a break!).

    Odin pointed to the Great Earth, and said nothing. The others understood their mission. They must go and rescue the Great Earth from Extinction Within. They must reintroduce the Virtues of Old – Honesty, Patience, Peaceful, Generous, Kind, Loving, etc. – into the Hearts of Men.

  10. Chloe 9
    The Kids
    Why is he all over her? I am the pretty one around here. What is it? What is it you say? Oh so you think I am just being Jelous eh. Well we will see about that!

  11. i chose the bird man story: dumbledore’s throne. once apon a time dumbledore went to hog warts and said….. I NEED A THRONE!.So he went to the wood carvers and told them what he wanted soon he had a throne.Then he sat down with his birds on the throne and to this day they love the throne.

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