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Character actions in stories | Reading

Character actions drive stories forward and reveal their personalities. By observing how characters react to situations, we learn about their motives, values, and goals. Actions can also show how characters change throughout a story. To understand characters better, look for evidence in the text and consider their thoughts and feelings.

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Video transcript

- [David] Hello, readers. Today it is a time for action. (horn blares) Yes, sound the horn of action, because today we're going to be talking about character actions in stories. Understanding what characters do is key to your success as a reader. The way characters behave towards themselves, towards others, towards objects, can tell us a lot about them and can give us clues to the larger messages in a story. Character actions are what drive a story forward. Let my co-worker Kim read you a story in which nobody takes any actions. - [Kim] Once upon a time, there was a magical kingdom in which nobody ever did anything. Nobody baked bread or called their friends on the phone or played video games or soccer or basketball or wrote books or ate yogurt. They didn't even nap. They just sat there. (Kim yawns) It was a very boring kingdom. - [David] Why, thank you, Kim. Without character action, there is no story. Let's try that again. I'll blow the horn of action and Kim you do that again, but this time let's throw in some character decisions. All right, lights, camera, horn of action. (horn blares) - [Kim] The magical kingdom of Belchantry was abuzz with activity. Bakers baked, ballers shot hoops, yogurt smiths made yogurt. The young princess Lulabell practiced her swordplay. And on a great tower on the outskirts of town an evil wizard put the finishing touches on a spell that would bring terrible darkness to the land. - [David] See, now that's a story I wanna hear. Character actions and decisions have to drive the story. It's about what characters choose to do, not just about the world around them. There could be a big, scary storm, but that's not character action. It's about how the characters react to the storm that matters, that shapes the story. What do characters do in times of trouble or when their friends need help? That's when you can learn the most about them. Actions speak louder than words, after all. What motivates these characters? Why do they act the way they act? What are the values or beliefs that drive them? What are their goals? And what does that tell us about the message of the story? Sometimes characters don't behave in the way that we expect, like villainous characters may seem nice in order to do evil things. If we think about "The Three Little Pigs." If the Big Bad Wolf is going door to door and saying, "Hello, little pig. "It's me, your new neighbor, the Small Nice Wolf. "And I brought you some cookies." If you're the pig looking out the window, you should open the door, right? Heek no! The wolf is trying to trick you, lock the door. What's interesting about looking at character actions is they can help us see how characters change throughout a story. In the film "Moana," the demi-god character Maui begins as a selfish tricky character, but by the end of the movie he's changed and he cares about Moana and helps her. We can see that because of his actions. He begins by stealing Moana's boat and stranding her on an island, and he ends by sacrificing his magic fish hook to help her. Sorry for "Moana" spoilers. Characters in stories can be complex, just like real people. The way they behave might surprise you. And if it does, ask yourself, why is this a surprise? Why is this character behaving in this way? Look for evidence throughout a text to help you understand the way characters act. If you've insight into their thoughts or feelings, that can be a great place to start. But, for now, I'm going to take action by ending this video. You can learn anything, David out.