The answer is here. they’re unusually tall / short / skinny / fat / hairy / bald …) but we don’t have long descriptions of exactly how they look. Movement and gesture in physical description can thus surprise readers. But how do you convey all that to a reader without depleting the magic? Framing description relevant to a person’s actions make us notice the writer’s device a little less. Use figurative language. Over 500,000 authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them. Words, after all, are not limited to describing physical things. When it comes to describing something, the same is true for many adjectives; which are to descriptions as adverbs are to verbs. As classics students, they have a love of the old-fashioned. Instead, think of how we learn things about other people in real life. Yeah, okay — the irony here isn’t lost on us. This mix of honest reflection and making light of the situation suggests the wisdom, forgiveness and perspective that may come with age. On the other hand, facial expressions speak volumes. Her face is knotted and anxious, bunched in on itself, and it takes her a long time to notice him. Body language is key to understanding other people, so it stands to reason that it’s key to understanding characters, too. Eli K.P. She used to live with a flock of birds on Lenox Avenue. Far too often aspiring writers’ character descriptions involve mundane activities, unrelated to who they’re introducing. But if we’re distinctly told about the woman with ears like a rabbit or the man with a slightly larger left nostril? Description becomes incidental to what’s going on. The same holds true when the description is a summary – giving us a character’s personality or conflict or need with no visible evidence, and nothing to allow your reader or audience to draw their own conclusions. Tartt’s character description conveys the world her characters inhabit. Each of these examples gives an idea of character, of who the people are. Writing strong character descriptions actually requires quite a bit of finesse. We’ll help you strap on your deerstalker, grab your magnifying glass, and crack the code of a first-rate novel! Like this example from Lord of the Flies: “His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness.”. Her movement itself tells a story. Here are three cardinal rules on how to write character descriptions without falling off that tightrope. Instead, Scrooge in this Christmas book is: “Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”. It also reveals his wry, subtle sense of humour about the past. A big part of how to write good character descriptions is understanding how physical appearance combines with movement, habits and tics. (Although, there is good fanfiction too.). Strong character descriptions work on multiple levels. You may include nothing but names, and in fact, if the names intrigue and the play has an abstract style, this may be the best choice. Her thin, uptight mouth was a door on a latch, poised to shut fast at any sign of trouble or disagreement and stay that way ’til the coast was clear. There’s nothing wrong with providing sparse information in a character description. Yup. Much has been made about the banality of the verb “to be” in literature. For example: His dopey expression made him look as though he was always half-sedated. Find the perfect editor for your next book. The larger of the two – and he was quite large, well over six feet – was dark-haired, with a square jaw and coarse, pale skin. That’s truer than ever when it comes to describing your novel’s cast. For example, for the same character above, we could write: She looked up from dusting fallen lunch off her scruffy tracksuit, and gazed across the university cafeteria, towards where I was sitting, trying not to stand out. We’ll tell you! But so does half the world’s population! Iris’s description of getting a soda with her father in Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin conveys the perspective of a child in the process of losing her innocence. Crafting a great real estate description is just one of many tasks sellers need to complete to get their house on the market and find a buyer. For all the words about describing facial features, I’m focusing more on physical descriptions rather than emotional expressions, though there’s a little crossover! If you skimp on descriptive passages, you run the risk of leaving your readers with forgettable characters. Actions sweep us up in the scene. Consider these character description examples: Her peroxide job has gone wrong, so that her hair has turned a strange yellow colour, standing out in angry spikes from her head. Tartt also uses shadowy suppositions (one ‘might have been handsome’) to layer personality over immediate appearance. After all, this is the first time you’re introducing a character you’ve created from the ground up. Find out how long a novella, novelette, and short story are supposed to be. “He was a superficial sociopath” succinctly describes the extent of Patrick Bateman’s character development in the novel, but a passage like this shows it so much better: “But there are also things that the average person would think are nice that I've done to celebrate the holiday, items I've bought Jean and had delivered to her apartment this morning: Castellini cotton napkins from Bendel's, a wicker chair from Jenny B. Goode, a taffeta table throw from Barney's, a vintage chain-mail-vent purse and a vintage sterling silver dresser set from Macy's, a white pine whatnot from Conran's, an Edwardian nine-carat-gold "gate" bracelet from Bergdorfs and hundreds upon hundreds of pink and white roses.”, Just be sure extensive descriptions of clothing don’t fall into the bad fanfiction category. #amwriting. Her changeable nature (frequent hair dyeing), the intensity of her emotions (‘angry spikes’ and her seeming ‘to burn’). Character Descriptions (KS2): Use our collection of Character Descriptions for KS2 students to help your class dramatically improve their English writing. Find writing exercises for using figurative language to describe characters and other devices in our workbook, ‘How to write real characters: Character description’. In other words, they may appear to be more descriptive, but they often just bog down your sentences. The waitress had a black dress and a white cap and eyebrows plucked to thin curves, and a red mouth shiny as jam. Remember, we don’t need to know every single physical detail of every person in a book. Hair, skin, and eye color — these are all characteristics that, ironically, don’t really say anything about what characters are like. At the end of the day, no matter what you decide to reveal to your audience, the most important aspect of character descriptions is how you reveal it. A writer controls how a reader sees characters. This can be used to show how description can be 'weaved in' to writing rather than just a list of characteristics/ features. To create an effective character description, it’s all about 1) choosing the right details to convey personality, and 2) choosing the most interesting details. Ultimately, a phrase like, “He had a prosaic, pedestrian face” may pale in comparison to a more simply but potent description, like this one from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated: “He did not look like anything special at all.”. Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and … Once you've completed the assessment, note your character's personality type and key assessment insights in an accessible place, allowing for easy reference as you write and revise. Her descriptions show how mannerisms, facial expressions, and personal tics modify the raw physical facts of people’s appearances. (For example, a quirky, avant-garde hairstyle could suggest a creative, edgy or bohemian personality.). So what does it take to strike the right balance? How do you write good character description that reveals enough to hook readers? The golden rule of writing applies here as well. She ran, then, through all that snow, and when she got back to her apartment she took the birds from their cages and set them out the windows to freeze or fly, including the parrot that said, ‘I love you.’”. Great character descriptions are what help ease the reader into your great characterization. Blog In a story, a writer will often start a new line for each character’s dialogue. In his popular novel American Psycho, Bret Eaton Ellis showcases Patrick Bateman's vapidity and narcissism through descriptions of the titular character's designer clothing. Galgut’s example describes his narrator’s volatile friend whom he travels with in India. You’ll be a Freytag expert in no time! But it also illustrates a narrator with a not-so-objective opinion of him. Start a new line. – Posted on Dec 21, 2018. You can start a character analysis by providing a simple, clear description of who your character is. You know how actions speak louder than words? If a first person narrator is describing themselves, they might comment on their own attractiveness, like Humbert Humbert in Lolita: “I was, and still am, despite mes malheurs, an exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy but all the more seductive cast of demeanor.”. This may not be terrible, as far as descriptions go. Two of the boys wore glasses, curiously enough the same kind: tiny, old-fashioned, with round steel rims. Enter your email and start using our interactive template today. In this case, you need to write in the simple present. Here, a narrating character’s in-the-moment perception of another character’s actions drops in descriptive elements. #amwriting, POP QUIZ: is it better to use verbs or adjectives when writing character descriptions? This is where a character’s physical attributes appear in a list, such as: ‘She had green eyes, long, tawny hair, a scruffy tracksuit that was stained, and a loud laugh.’. She brought him his coffee almost immediately, wobbling a little on her high heels, and when she set it down she touched his hand briefly. Develop your idea into full-fledged writing outline. Very rarely does the color of our eyes or the shape of our nose describe who we are. To keep their attention, add a little action into the mix. Find out in this guide! Good writing is a craft and a skill honed over time. William, author of 2015 novel CASH CRASH JUBILEE, offers advice on how to write vivid descriptions, while still being mindful of pacing. In this post, we’re going to show you how to get the reader to emotionally connect with your characters—particularly your protagonist—by comparingamateur and pro character descriptionexamples. Depending on the genre in which you write, you will create additional sections on the Character Profile Worksheet. When you describe how a character looks, think about how appearance illuminates personality.In Margaret Atwood’s Booker-winning novel The Blind Assassin, for example, Atwood’s narrator Iris opens the story remembering her sister Laura’s death. The example above could indicate, for example, that the lady was a professional ballet dancer for 30 years. You can tell a lot about a person from their possessions — whether it’s clothing, cars, houses, or merely the contents of their purse. Her elbows stuck out like wings, and a huge white enameled tub occupied the space above her head, somewhat miraculously holding steady while her head moved in quick jerks to the right and left.”. Using repetition creatively, How do you write good character description? The first example (simile) conveys a character’s sleepy, befuddled appearance. Where are they going? Yet when you introduce every character using a list of what attributes they have, we start to see the author’s presence behind the story’s stage curtains. Atwood creates a clear sense of Laura’s troubled personality by describing her clothing:‘I could picture th… Writer’s who are still developing their craft often give ‘laundry list’ description. So as you’re painting a picture of your character, do two important things: 1) focus on a few key characteristics at a time, and 2) make sure to spread your descriptions out across the book. So choose two or three distinct, specific attributes to describe and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. In one sense, actions can illustrate physical characteristics in a pretty basic way: “She ran her hand through her hair, accidentally revealing the mole on her forehead she’d always kept hidden behind her bangs.”. Or you could have one character describe another, which illuminates the attributes of the latter and the perception of the former. Note their unique physical characteristics, like eye color, hair, body type, and scars, as well as their personality traits such as hobbies, moral beliefs, and temperament. Same goes for verbs. All rights reserved, drop in descriptive details during actions, our workbook, ‘How to write real characters: Character description’, over-rely on describing eye and hair colour, description gives clues to her personality, appearance combines with movement, habits and tics, tells us something about the viewpoint narrator, using the ‘Characters’ section of our story outlining tool, Whether the narrator is judgmental, critical, or kind, The nature of the observer’s interest (for example, whether they like or dislike the person they describe, or even have romantic interest), How observant they are and what their focus is (what do they pick up on, and what do they miss? Or, describe physical characteristics in an abstract way — that is, use similes and metaphors. Target the Description In fiction , a description should not only paint a picture for the reader but also contribute to the plot and reveal something about a character. ). It also reveals he is aware of how mean his sister was, letting everyone know raising him was such a chore. Know her husband, too. This is where a character’s physical attributes appear in a list, such as: This may not be terrible, as far as descriptions go. Don’t spell out their lisp. #amwriting, Is it better to describe a fictional character extensively, or in brief? When writing character descriptions, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. But more than this, something has changed inside her, which you can see from a long way off. Your email address will not be published. Character descriptions aren’t about doling out every detail in lavish language — they’re about succinct characterization. When the woman, her name is Violet, went to the funeral to see the girl and to cut her dead face they threw her to the floor and out of the church. Establish their role. We’ll remember them for the whole novel. Personally, as a reader, I don’t really care what characters look like … Sometimes, this can be done through word choice alone. Character descriptions — those key passages that describe what a character actually looks like — are almost as crucial to a written story as the characters themselves. The description gives clues to her personality. Describing Characters. We don’t tell everything there is to know about each other — we show it, through our expressions, perceptions, actions, preferences, and even our stuff. Character descriptions can be notoriously tricky to insert naturally into the narrative, but don't actually have to be too tricky! She seems to burn with a luminous white light. He fell for an eighteen-year-old girl with one of those deepdown, spooky loves that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going. Biases exist in every aspect of life, so it’s okay to be biased in character descriptions, too. Develop detailed character profiles using the ‘Characters’ section of our story outlining tool. If you’re writing a novel, you’ve probably created an awesome, vivid protagonist in your head: motivated, quirky, maybe even memorably named. Your email address will not be published. When describing a character that you see clearly in your mind, it’s easy to simply give a laundry list of attributes: she had black hair, brown eyes, and freckles. And, at all expenses, avoid “ah, gee, misters.” 4 Do’s of How to Write Child Characters 1. These teacher-made character lesson plans are a great … Also consider any nicknames or pet names that could strengthen the relations… But sharp character development is also one of the toughest hills to climb, … Try these 5 techniques: Writer’s who are still developing their craft often give ‘laundry list’ description. By this, and by the way he leaned his elbows on the table, I realized he must already be familiar with this place. Ask any great novelist and they’ll likely tell you that good writing starts with good characters. After all, this isn’t Moby-Dick. Some authors don’t describe much about their characters. What details did the author give? Consider writing 2-3 versions of your listing description that focus on features that appeal to different buyers, so you can swap out if needed. Similarly, when you are developing your characters, physical appearance, name, where they're from and what they do are some of the first details to select. But you can also learn as much about fictional characters from their actions as you can about real people. Apply that same rule to your character descriptions, and your characters (and readers) will thank you for it. The right piece of book writing software can make all the difference. “I know that woman. Atwood shows Iris at a moment when she is recognizing the double-ness of people’s words and actions (the waitress calling her ‘sweet’ to butter up her father, while covertly also looking at her with dislike). Furthermore, someone who reads a ton of scripts may merely scan the character list anyway. (For a more structured practice session, follow the link above to a description writing exercise.) The stand-in object (the latched door) tells us something about the first, the character’s mouth (in this case, the image suggests a mistrustful and conflict-averse person). Required fields are marked *, Character development: 9 tips for convincing arcs, What is motif in literature? It also, at the same time, reveals a little about the observer. Toni Morrison displays clear knowledge of this in her novel Jazz, introducing the character Violet by recounting a story about her, rather than simply telling what she looks like. Reedsy is more than just a blog. Do you know the three cardinal rules for describing characters? Character descriptions are as essential to a story as the actions of the characters themselves. Description that relies solely on physical attributes too often turns into what Janet Burroway … Here are some ideas on what those attributes might be. And characterization is all about showing what makes a character unique. Yet while Pip describes Mrs Joe’s tough, somewhat unloving character, he does so with characterful wry humour, too. The scene is just as revealing of the process of Iris’s ‘growing up’ as it is of the characters she describes. We’re talking about character descriptions, after all — it’s quite literally in the name. Maybe we get a few key characteristics, especially if those are relevant to how the characters behave and interact with others (e.g. Relevant to a story as the actions of the verb “ to be ” in literature others ’ of. Her green eyes were very rarely does the color of our nose describe we. 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