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Characterization refers to the way an author develops the fictional people who populate a novel—you know, characters? In other words, characterization is how an author helps us get to know all of the characters in a book. An author might develop a character through dialogue (the words a character speaks), through action (what he or she does), through narration about the character, through the character's relationship to others, or through his or her changes over time.
Shmoop likes to let you in on the characterization secret in our learning guides. J.R.R. Tolkien, take it away.