HOW TO DESCRIBE A CHARACTER
One of my weaknesses is character description. I have such trouble sometimes visualizing the characters in my head, so naturally, this has been a place of research for me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to effectively describe a character without seeming so obvious that I’m describing a character.
Every now and then, I’ll have a stroke of genius, and the description of a character will just fall off my fingertips and onto the page.
Other times, I found myself almost doing a mantra just to conjure up an image of the character in my head. However, if I see a person, I can describe him almost instantaneously.
Now that I’ve vented, let’s get to work! It’s Monday! Wake up people!
One of my favorite books about writing is called How Not to Write A Novel. For one, I found myself laughing HYSTERICALLY at some of the examples that the authors used. But, also, they give some really good insight into things that writers tend to do.
One thing that Middelmark and Newman talk about is how people describe themselves. A common scene in a first-person POV novel is to have the main character look into a mirror and describe how beautiful she is. This NEVER happens in real life, and if it does, you’d better believe that your reader is going to assume that you’re writing about a conceited, well-to-do, snob of a main character.
FP POV characters need to be described by other characters and by the POV character’s personal frustrations with her appearance.
Here’s something you should avoid if you are trying to gain sympathy for your POV.
Looking in the mirror, I love the way my orange hair falls over my slender shoulders, and how my perfect lips light up my face with gentle smiles that everyone’s going to love tonight.
She just lost my vote.
A FP POV character needs to be described differently.
Of all the colors my hair could have been, it had to be orange. Not to mention how thick and unmanageable it was. I guess with an hour or so, I can turn this mess of a bed-head into something presentable for tonight’s dance. At least I hope so anyway.
Notice the difference here. The character is not impressed with herself, but subtly she knows that with some work, she can perhaps be beautified. This is how most people think of themselves. We don’t always see the greatness. We see the blemishes. Other characters’ perspective of your main will bring out her beauty as the story progresses. But at least the reader has some details to work with.