Developing Characters in PSLE English Composition

One of the most compelling aspects of any narrative composition, whether it’s a short story, a novel, or a composition written for the PSLE English examinations, is the character development. The ability to create interesting, relatable, and engaging characters is what sets great writers apart. This talent can be nurtured from an early age, and the Ministry of Education (MOE) Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) emphasises its importance in the PSLE English syllabus.

Creating characters that makes a difference

Creating characters that resonate with readers is no easy feat. It requires a deep understanding of human emotions, motivations, and behaviours. Furthermore, it demands a comprehensive grasp of descriptive language and literary techniques. So, how can students develop their character creation skills to align with the MOE SEAB’s expectations for the PSLE English examinations?

Start with the Basics:

Before embarking on the journey of character development, students need to establish a strong foundation. This involves understanding the basic elements that make up a character: their name, age, appearance, and occupation or role in the story. Starting with these fundamentals allows students to begin visualising their characters.

Building a Character Profile:

Once the basic elements are in place, it’s time to delve deeper. A well-rounded character has their unique personality traits, strengths, weaknesses, hopes, fears, and desires. Building a detailed character profile can guide students in crafting characters that are multifaceted and engaging.

Character Arc:

Characters should evolve over the course of the narrative. This evolution, or character arc, is an essential part of character development. It could be a positive change, where the character overcomes a flaw or achieves a goal, or a negative change, where the character succumbs to their weaknesses.

Showing, Not Telling:

Effective character development is about showing who the characters are through their actions, dialogues, and reactions, rather than simply stating it. Instead of telling the reader that a character is kind, show them performing acts of kindness. This approach makes characters more believable and engaging.

Character Relationships:

Characters don’t exist in isolation; they interact with others and these interactions influence their behaviours and decisions. Understanding and effectively portraying these relationships can add depth to characters and make them more compelling.


While characters should evolve, they also need to remain consistent. Their actions and reactions should align with their established personality traits. Any change should be gradual and justified by the events in the story.

Conflict and Resolution:

Characters are often defined by how they handle conflicts. Introducing obstacles and showing how your characters deal with them can highlight their strengths and weaknesses, thereby adding to their development.

Use of Language and Literary Techniques:

Techniques such as simile, metaphor, personification, and symbolism can all be used to enhance character description and portrayal. This also aligns with the language and literary device requirements of the MOE SEAB’s PSLE English syllabus.

Revision and Editing:

Character development is a process that often requires several drafts. Encourage students to revise and edit their characters as they progress in their writing.

Character development is not only critical for the PSLE English composition but also for developing empathy and understanding of human nature in students. It cultivates creativity and nurtures critical thinking skills, making it a valuable learning experience beyond the confines of the examination.

While the process may seem daunting initially, with consistent practice and a clear understanding of the techniques, students can create engaging and memorable characters that not only meet the PSLE English syllabus requirements but also captivate readers. Thus, fostering a lifelong appreciation for the art of storytelling.

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