Character analysis is one type of essay assignment you will come across, very often, if you are pursuing English literature as your main subject. It is necessary to understand how to write this type of essay and what to include in it, as it is slightly different from normal essays, in content.
An analysis is what you understand of the topic in question. You will be expected to give your opinion which has evolved out of the given details in the book. Criticism will not be accepted as this is supposed to be just an analysis of the characters, as shaped by the author. So the main task is to read and understand the book, if you have to express your understanding of the characters in it.
This type of essay can come with guidelines asking you to focus on one particular character in a book or it could also ask you to analyze all the characters in it. The former type is rather easy because you will just need to study one particular character. But there is more effort involved in the latter type where you will be asked to study all the characters and give a detailed analysis.
As the first step, read the book many times to get a very good idea of the story. The first reading should ideally be a relaxed one. That is the best way to understand the story. Then you read it again and this time, take notes of all the characters in the story, as you read on. You may not be able to include all of them in your essay because there will be a page limit for your assignment. But if you have a list of all characters, when you sit down to write your essay, you can be sure of not having missed any of them.
Once through with that, you should arrange them according to the roles they have played in the story. Do this carefully, because those which end up last in the list might get omitted, if there is not enough space.
The central characters should be discussed elaborately. Their entry, role and exit should all be discussed in detail. Their nature and habits should also be mentioned. Since there will be a lot to be written about the main characters in the book, you can put them into separate paragraphs. But as you move down your list of characters, the detailing can be trimmed according to how less important the characters are. This solely depends on the number of sheets permitted for the essay. If you have enough space, there is no harm in giving a detailed analysis of all the characters. But make sure to stay within the page limit.
Since you will need to read the book more than once to be able to write a good essay, make sure not to keep it for the last day. You will have to go deep into the characters to be able to analyze them. It can be done easily if you keep aside enough time for it. Writing a character analysis can be a very interesting assignment if you dedicate enough time for it.