Tweet One of the most important elements in a novel or short story is characterization:
The characters in our stories, songs, poems, and essays embody our writing. They are our words made flesh. Sometimes they even speak for us, carrying much of the burden of plot, theme, mood, idea, and emotion. But they do not exist until we describe them on the page.
Until we anchor them with words, they drift, bodiless and ethereal. They weigh nothing; they have no voice. What they become, on the page, is up to us. Here are 11 secrets to keep in mind as you breathe life into your characters through description.
He has green eyes and brown hair and usually wears khakis and oxford shirts. No identifying marks, no scars or tattoos, nothing to distinguish him.
He appears as a cardboard cutout rather than as a living, breathing character. When we describe a character, factual information alone is not sufficient, no matter how accurate it might be. The details must appeal to our senses. Phrases that merely label like tall, middle-aged, and average bring no clear image to our minds.
Since most people form their first impression of someone through visual clues, it makes sense to describe our characters using visual images. Are they pale green or dark green? Even a simple adjective can strengthen a detail. If you use an adjective to describe a physical attribute, make sure that the phrase is not only accurate and sensory but also fresh.
Strengthen physical descriptions by making details more specific. Select physical details carefully, choosing only those that create the strongest, most revealing impression.
One well-chosen physical trait, item of clothing, or idiosyncratic mannerism can reveal character more effectively than a dozen random images. This applies to characters in nonfiction as well as fiction.
When I write about my grandmother, I usually focus on her strong, jutting chin—not only because it was her most dominant feature but also because it suggests her stubbornness and determination. When I write about Uncle Leland, I describe the wandering eye that gave him a perpetually distracted look, as if only his body was present.
As you describe real-life characters, zero in on distinguishing characteristics that reveal personality: Once your character is situated comfortably, he may relax enough to reveal his secrets.
Early environments shape fictional characters as well as flesh-and-blood people. We learn about Madame Bovary through concrete, sensory descriptions of the place that formed her. In addition, Flaubert describes the book that held her attention during mass and the images that she particularly loved—a sick lamb, a pierced heart.
Living among those white-faced women with their rosaries and copper crosses, never getting away from the stuffy schoolroom atmosphere, she gradually succumbed to the mystic languor exhaled by the perfumes of the altar, the coolness of the holy-water fonts and the radiance of the tapers.
Instead of following the Mass, she used to gaze at the azure-bordered religious drawings in her book. She loved the sick lamb, the Sacred Heart pierced with sharp arrows, and poor Jesus falling beneath His cross.How to introduce a character.
Burke’s first lines of dialogue reinforce our expectation from the character description. “Yes, I work for the company, but I want you to think I’m on your side.” How to Write a Scene How to Write Dialogue.
Saying that a Tarantino character likes popular culture is like saying a Woody Allen. Nov 13, · Write about how you or your character react to the place.
Huge chunks of place description can get a little boring for even the most dedicated reader. To keep their attention, add a little action into the mix%(33). (And if you’re a screenwriter, you must omit such descriptions altogether – you can only write what the audience will see and hear on the screen.) Sometimes storytellers provide visible descriptions that create an image, but the details are unimportant to the story and reveal nothing of what’s inside the character.
Writing is an account of how people think. As a medium it's intrinsically empathic; it communicates patently human sensibilities.
In order for a story to work, it needs to feel like real life, even when it’s actually something quite different. The more detailed and rich your descriptions, the. [Find more articles on character description on our character writing hub.
4: Show clothing to avoid over-relying on telling Clothing description in a story is useful because it often gives additional information about a character that you might otherwise tell.
As you develop your character, decide what goals your character has, and why. A plot is driven by characters' quests and the pursuit of a goal.
The protagonist has one goal while the antagonist has another, and as you develop these characters, define these goals as well as the reason your characters are pursuing them.