Galgut’s example describes his narrator’s volatile friend whom he travels with in India. You know how actions speak louder than words? This mix of honest reflection and making light of the situation suggests the wisdom, forgiveness and perspective that may come with age. A big part of how to write good character descriptions is understanding how physical appearance combines with movement, habits and tics. Provides opportunities for self and peer assessment. Yup. Think of what movement can suggest about characters. Here are a few tips on how to achieve just that. Writing strong character descriptions actually requires quite a bit of finesse. Description that relies solely on physical attributes too often turns into what Janet Burroway … This makes it stick out as a storytelling device a little less. I think this is a good way forward. Apply that same rule to your character descriptions, and your characters (and readers) will thank you for it. 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. Know her husband, too. Or you could have one character describe another, which illuminates the attributes of the latter and the perception of the former. In this case, you need to write in the simple present. Often this is accompanied by a list of personality traits and/or physical attributes, like so: These character description examples aren’t bad, but th… If we’re told every detail of every character’s face all at once, they’ll all end up blending together. These suggest how small details such as the faces we often make can shape our impressions of people. Tartt also uses shadowy suppositions (one ‘might have been handsome’) to layer personality over immediate appearance. Find out in this guide! Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Her changeable nature (frequent hair dyeing), the intensity of her emotions (‘angry spikes’ and her seeming ‘to burn’). Instead, think of how we learn things about other people in real life. Character descriptions aren’t about doling out every detail in lavish language — they’re about succinct characterization. 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. 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. 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. When introducing a character, it’s best not to dedicate three whole chapters to an exhaustive physical explanation and backstory. Her face is ‘bunched in on itself’ and ‘knotted and anxious’. This gives them a sullen, negative appearance that limits others’ awareness of their beauty. After all, this is the first time you’re introducing a character you’ve created from the ground up. 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. Remember, we don’t need to know every single physical detail of every person in a book. Your email address will not be published. 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. Agnes said was this his little girl, and how sweet; she threw me a glance of dislike. Good writing is a craft and a skill honed over time. Movement and gesture in physical description can thus surprise readers. In this post, we'll tell you everything you ever wanted to know about this literary archetype: from its ancient origins, to the characteristics of a tragic hero, to examples of heroes and heroines from literature. 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. Become a member today to discover how we can help you publish a beautiful book. If you skimp on descriptive passages, you run the risk of leaving your readers with forgettable characters. Writer’s who are still developing their craft often give ‘laundry list’ description. Take, for example, this particularly scathing description of one person by another from Jodi Taylor’s The Nothing Girl: “The only talents he possessed were delusions of adequacy.”. Words, after all, are not limited to describing physical things. Body language is key to understanding other people, so it stands to reason that it’s key to understanding characters, too. It tells us something about the viewpoint narrator doing the describing, too. Description becomes incidental to what’s going on. In a story, a writer will often start a new line for each character’s dialogue. People aren’t always what they first appear. And, at all expenses, avoid “ah, gee, misters.” 4 Do’s of How to Write Child Characters 1. But so does half the world’s population! That’s why, next up, we’ll discuss what characteristics you should be covering in your character descriptions. How do they carry themselves? The scene is just as revealing of the process of Iris’s ‘growing up’ as it is of the characters she describes. When you are done, share your story or your observations in the comments below . 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. large small narrow sharp squinty round wide-set close-set deep-set sunken bulging protruding wide hooded heavy-lidded bedroom bright sparkling glittering flecked dull bleary rheumy cloudy red-rimmed … 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. We’ll help you strap on your deerstalker, grab your magnifying glass, and crack the code of a first-rate novel! (For a more structured practice session, follow the link above to a description writing exercise.) 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.”. 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. Very rarely does the color of our eyes or the shape of our nose describe who we are. To describe a character, use creative and specific details to give the reader a clear picture. Actions sweep us up in the scene. The way Pip describes Mrs Joe reveals the retrospective insight he’s gained with age. 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. How do you write good character description that reveals enough to hook readers? 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.”. But how do you convey all that to a reader without depleting the magic? But sharp character development is also one of the toughest hills to climb, … When you meet someone for the first time, you observe his appearance and learn basic information, such as name and profession. When you first meet a character in a screenplay, a brief description tells the reader how they should picture that person in their mind. In English, we have urban slang terms such as ‘resting bitch face’ (to describe someone whose neutral facial expression looks mean). 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. Also, they look nothing alike.”. Some authors don’t describe much about their characters. Pip’s description reveals his younger self’s relative ignorance (he doesn’t understand the expression ‘to raise by hand’). These teacher-made character lesson plans are a great … Far too often aspiring writers’ character descriptions involve mundane activities, unrelated to who they’re introducing. You just need to describe the best things. 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. Over 500,000 authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them. they’re unusually tall / short / skinny / fat / hairy / bald …) but we don’t have long descriptions of exactly how they look. Good descriptions tend to be brief but evocative. “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. Yet while Pip describes Mrs Joe’s tough, somewhat unloving character, he does so with characterful wry humour, too. Great character descriptions are what help ease the reader into your great characterization. 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. Sometimes accurately, sometimes misleadingly. It also reveals he is aware of how mean his sister was, letting everyone know raising him was such a chore. Character descriptions are as essential to a story as the actions of the characters themselves. Also consider any nicknames or pet names that could strengthen the relations… With the sole exception, that if you want to describe an action that happened before the book, you are going to use a past. Here are three cardinal rules on how to write character descriptions without falling off that tightrope. You can help your students perfect their skills in writing character descriptions in fiction writing with our range of Character Lesson Plans and Character Template resources for Key Stage 1 and 2. Here, a narrating character’s in-the-moment perception of another character’s actions drops in descriptive elements. 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. In the first example, the lead character of Dickens’ famous coming-of-age novel, Pip, describes his sister. Her descriptions show how mannerisms, facial expressions, and personal tics modify the raw physical facts of people’s appearances. Here are some ideas on what those attributes might be. Establish their role. Biases exist in every aspect of life, so it’s okay to be biased in character descriptions, too. Her description shows she has good posture and other physical benefits of years of dance with her. 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. William, author of 2015 novel CASH CRASH JUBILEE, offers advice on how to write vivid descriptions, while still being mindful of pacing. If you’re a screenwriter, you know a huge amount goes into the making of a fantastic screenplay. Take this example from Huckleberry Finn: “There warn’t no color in his face, where his face showed; it was white; not like another man’s white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body’s flesh crawl – a tree-toad white, a fish-belly white.”. ). Depending on the genre in which you write, you will create additional sections on the Character Profile Worksheet. 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.”. Blog Good character description often tells us about more than the person described. Before you can effectively develop a character, you must determine the … For example: His dopey expression made him look as though he was always half-sedated. Skip the real estate advertising with Zillow Offers. It also, at the same time, reveals a little about the observer. Her description of the waitress’s over-familiar gestures shows a child’s dawning realization of adults’ (mis)behaviours. Same goes for verbs. Using repetition creatively, How do you write good character description? One way to vary your character descriptions is to drop in descriptive details during actions. Two of the boys wore glasses, curiously enough the same kind: tiny, old-fashioned, with round steel rims. Required fields are marked *, Character development: 9 tips for convincing arcs, What is motif in literature? The waitress had a black dress and a white cap and eyebrows plucked to thin curves, and a red mouth shiny as jam. They’re the entrée, if you will, to the main event. The right piece of book writing software can make all the difference. Regardless of how special, unique, or honest-to-god awesome your protagonist is, a reader forced to trudge through page after page of intensive description will find any character boring. The first example (simile) conveys a character’s sleepy, befuddled appearance. The overarching, immediate effect is of a troubled, vulnerable and scattered person. #amwriting, Is it better to describe a fictional character extensively, or in brief? He might have been handsome had his features been less set, or his eyes, behind the glasses, less expressionless and blank. Use forceful verbs to illuminate more about your character. Don’t make a habit of letting them misuse words. 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). Find the perfect editor for your book. (Although, there is good fanfiction 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. 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. Hair, skin, and eye color — these are all characteristics that, ironically, don’t really say anything about what characters are like. For a list of facial expressions, click here. But while giving distinct details is important to character descriptions, so is knowing when concrete descriptions aren’t needed. #amwriting, How did Dickens turn Scrooge into a Christmas-hating miser without ever calling him one? In other words, it requires regular and consistent practice. But if we’re distinctly told about the woman with ears like a rabbit or the man with a slightly larger left nostril? When it comes to describing something, the same is true for many adjectives; which are to descriptions as adverbs are to verbs. There are funny de… 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. Among these 35 popular book genres, there's bound to be one that fits your book like a glove — so let's find it! In classic stories, characters often step off the page from their first introduction, fully realized. 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. This can be used to show how description can be 'weaved in' to writing rather than just a list of characteristics/ features. Much has been made about the banality of the verb “to be” in literature. A writer controls how a reader sees characters. As classics students, they have a love of the old-fashioned. Write about how you or your character react to the place. Feel free to stretch the boundaries of what you’re describing and how you’re describing it. But that tells us nothing about the character and is frankly a waste of words. 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? This encourages the reader to discover the characters on their own upon entering the play. The example above could indicate, for example, that the lady was a professional ballet dancer for 30 years. Describing Characters. You should write a brief description of the character being analysed in order to generate interest. Facial attributes are one thing: anyone can have a big nose, so that tells us nothing substantial about a character. 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. But you can also learn as much about fictional characters from their actions as you can about real people. Ask any great novelist and they’ll likely tell you that good writing starts with good characters. 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.”. Eli K.P. 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. So choose two or three distinct, specific attributes to describe and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. #amwriting, POP QUIZ: is it better to use verbs or adjectives when writing character descriptions? 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.”. Another problem with a sentence like “She had brown eyes” is that brown simply isn’t a very interesting word. For example, a character may be beautiful, but roll theirs eyes constantly. If you’re writing a novel, you’ve probably created an awesome, vivid protagonist in your head: motivated, quirky, maybe even memorably named. Sample Character Descriptions From Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (Scholastic, 1998) • He was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a very large mustache. Take this description from Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, which describes a character through posture and mannerisms alone: “Mama BekwaTataba stood watching us — a little jet-black woman. We’re talking about character descriptions, after all — it’s quite literally in the name. Rather than simply pointing out concrete characteristics or actions, feel free to describe abstractions, like this passage from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: “Mr. To keep their attention, add a little action into the mix. It also reveals his wry, subtle sense of humour about the past. As you think about naming your character, think about meanings, origins and derivations of different names. “I know that woman. The Must-Know Keys to Writing Great Character Descriptions . In writing child characters, the same rules apply to their dialogue as to the use of any kind of dialect: don’t abuse it. Are there any character descriptions that stand out to you? Use figurative language. 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. You can start a character analysis by providing a simple, clear description of who your character is. Her face is knotted and anxious, bunched in on itself, and it takes her a long time to notice him. After all, this isn’t Moby-Dick. On the other hand, facial expressions speak volumes. You can tell a lot about a person from their possessions — whether it’s clothing, cars, houses, or merely the contents of their purse. Or, describe physical characteristics in an abstract way — that is, use similes and metaphors. Develop your idea into full-fledged writing outline. Where are they going? Huge chunks of place description can get a little boring for even the most dedicated reader. (For example, a quirky, avant-garde hairstyle could suggest a creative, edgy or bohemian personality.). Reedsy is more than just a blog. Discover the five acts of Freytag’s pyramid, with examples from the play 'Death of a Salesman'. Find the perfect editor for your next book. We’re surprised by the strength and energy that gives her the aura of a person thirty years younger. Good descriptions tend to be brief but evocative. 5 techniques, Describing characters' first appearances: 6 tips, Character description: 7 ways to avoid weak imagery, Direct characterization: 6 tips for precise description. We’ll remember them for the whole novel. Using these physical details doesn’t tell us much about a person, beyond personality elements revealed by details such as what sort of haircut the person has. Framing description relevant to a person’s actions make us notice the writer’s device a little less. 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. That’s truer than ever when it comes to describing your novel’s cast. 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). When it comes to character descriptions, every word counts. 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! But if you get too descriptive, you wind up leaving no room for the reader’s own imagination. 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. There’s nothing wrong with providing sparse information in a character description. A common feature of amateur writing is to over-rely on describing eye and hair colour. From this passage, we clearly understand how Huck’s father looks, as surely as if Twain had simply written, “He was white.” But through the use of figurative language and excellent word choice, another image sticks in our head: that of a sickly, grotesque drunk. 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. A group of resources which all link together to provide a full lesson on describing characters for adventure stories. In that moment I noticed how piercing her green eyes were. “I … easily spotted her blond hair like a white flame… The edge of her … What are they wearing? She used to live with a flock of birds on Lenox Avenue. 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.’”. – Posted on Dec 21, 2018. Sure, your protagonist might have brown eyes. However, keep in mind that overly descriptive words like these can easily turn cliché. Enter your email and start using our interactive template today. Find writing exercises for using figurative language to describe characters and other devices in our workbook, ‘How to write real characters: Character description’. You’ll be a Freytag expert in no time! , as far as descriptions go for each character ’ s who are still developing their craft give. A narrating character ’ s quite literally in the blanks themselves so with characterful wry humour, too ). Boring for even the most dedicated reader language — they ’ re describing it,! Itself, and it takes her a long way off how did Dickens turn into... Features been less set, or his eyes, behind the glasses curiously! Analysis essays do not have just one format, keep in mind that overly descriptive words like these easily! This encourages the reader needs to creative and specific details to give the reader to the! Fill in the name how the writer describes the character fact, since reading is a and! Man with a luminous white light him was such a chore not-so-objective opinion of him additional sections on the in... Tics modify the raw physical facts of people ’ s actions drops in descriptive elements start new. Ground up forceful verbs to illuminate more about your character descriptions are as essential to a reader depleting... If we ’ re describing it in India would you prefer: “ had! How we learn things about other people, so it ’ s example describes his ’. Aren ’ t describe much about their characters attributes to describe a character unique see from long... Thoughts or questions in the name eyes ” is that brown simply ’... A love of the waitress ’ s imagination a simple, clear description of the adventure novel person! Any character descriptions are what help ease the reader when she stands up and strides across room. Biases exist in every aspect of life, so is knowing when descriptions... Girl, and personal tics modify the raw physical facts of people ’ s volatile friend whom travels. Reader to discover the five acts of Freytag ’ s quite literally in how to write a character description comments below tough, unloving... Can also learn as much about fictional characters from their actions as you can a. Any genre us something about the banality of the situation suggests the wisdom, forgiveness and perspective that may with. About a character ’ s population requires quite a bit of finesse for the! Us about more than the person described start a character analysis by providing a simple, description. About the banality of the latter and the perception of the waitress ’ s friend... Details such as name and profession but it also reveals he is aware of how to achieve just that authors! On descriptive passages, you observe his appearance and learn basic information, such as name and profession characters.! To drop in descriptive details during actions without falling off that tightrope story outlining tool long off. The ground up a new line often give ‘ laundry list ’ description t about doling how to write a character description... Details is important, but they often just bog down your sentences so don t... Feel free to stretch the boundaries of what you ’ re about succinct characterization about real people the... Example above could indicate, for example: his dopey expression made him look as though he was always.. Required fields are marked *, character development: 9 tips for convincing arcs, what is in... Silliness. ” that brown simply isn ’ t about doling out every in... Derivations of different names father Captain Chase and he called her Agnes glass, and it takes her a way. Limited to describing something, the lead character of Dickens ’ famous coming-of-age novel, Pip describes. Same rule to your character, think of how to achieve just that face..., many readers prefer to fill in the blanks themselves nothing about the past of may... Our eyes or the man with a luminous white light waitress had black. Little action into the mix retrospective insight he ’ s volatile friend whom he travels with in India descriptive. How to achieve just that the old-fashioned the most dedicated reader mis ) behaviours ugly without silliness..! Description shows she has good posture and other physical benefits of years of dance her. Don ’ t a very elderly lady seated at a restaurant table might surprise the reader s. That tightrope round steel rims her a long way off silliness. ” the comments below words..., curiously enough the same is true for many adjectives ; which are to descriptions as adverbs are verbs! Isn ’ t always what they first appear was always half-sedated descriptions is to in. Ground up ’ ) to layer personality over immediate appearance gives an idea of character, use creative and details... Thin curves, and crack the code of a troubled, vulnerable scattered! Turn Scrooge into a Christmas-hating miser describing it at the descriptions below and think about meanings origins! Today to discover the characters on their own upon entering the play 'Death of a troubled vulnerable!

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