Got two minutes? Then check out this week’s quick tip ~ How to describe characters using rare and interesting traits.
Hello and welcome…I am a freelance editor and an editor for The Wild Rose Press, as well as an author. I often struggle with my own writing, and I have found that sometimes, a little reminder of ways to improve the process can be helpful, so, I like to share these moments of brilliance with others :). But, in this busy world of ours, who has time for pages and pages of writing tips? That’s why I’ve condensed mine down to quick flashes you can read in (approximately) two minutes. Enjoy…
Disclaimer: All of my tips are suggestions, and are only my opinion. And, for the most part, there are exceptions when going against my advice will make your story read better. Take what works, leave the rest.
Description is not my strength, but I am working on improving in that area. Whether describing surroundings or character, I am attempting to point out the unique features, rather than the standard. Today, my tips is about the physical characteristics of people. If you’re like me, you usually fall back on the comfortable, easy traits: hair color, eye color, height and weight. I’m not saying those should be totally discarded, but how about sharing what’s unique about the character? Whether you’re describing your main characters or secondary characters, give readers a quick, clear visual of elements that stand out, elements that are not shared with millions of other people.
Which of these descriptions is more vivid, more memorable?
She was thin, medium height. Her brown hair was cut short, and she had blue eyes.
Small eyes, set far apart, sat in a pale face with a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. Her shoulders hunched, emphasizing the sharpness of clavicle bones trying to push through her skin.
How about this…
He was tall with broad shoulders and green eyes. Dark hair brushed the collar of his shirt.
He towered above her. Taut muscles strained the fabric of his charcoal gray button down shirt. His firm mouth molded into an easy, lopsided grin, but his eyes were piercing, boring into her as if excavating her thoughts, her soul.
The second descriptions in each example did not provide eye or hair color, height, or weight. But I think they gave us a stronger image. I’m not saying you shouldn’t share standard traits for your characters. It’s perfectly acceptable to make that ‘part’ of your character description. For me, I definitely want to know those details about main characters. But, I also want to know more. For secondary characters, I wouldn’t spend much time describing, but give us three or four specifics that can help us form a picture. And, for your main characters, you have thousands and thousands of words with which to show us how your character looks, acts, moves, etc. Sprinkle it throughout, you don’t have to give us everything in one big clump.
There are many other things to consider about descriptions; making them active, drawing out the things that your POV character would notice, etc, but for today, since I promised only two minutes of your time, we’ll stick with just the above. 🙂
Challenge: Describe your characters without using hair or eye color, height or weight. If you’d like, share a few sentences of what you come up with in the comments.
Until next time…happy writing!
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(Click on the cover to be taken to the Amazon Buy Page)
I am releasing an e-book with a collection of Two-Minute Tips I have shared on my blog. Now, you can have them in one convenient place for easy reference. Pre-Order price is 99¢!!! – Regular price will be $2.99.
*** If you would like to send me a few sample pages (around 7500 words or so, even though I will not edit that many on the blog. It just gives me more to choose from) for me to edit and share on an upcoming blog post, please do so in the body of an email to AliciaMDean@aol.com. Please use the subject line: “Blog Submission” This is for published or unpublished authors. In the email, please include whether you would like me to use your name or keep it anonymous, and whether or not you would like me to include any contact info or buy info for your books. Also, you can let me know if you would like for me to run my edits by you before posting on the blog. Please keep in mind, this is for samples to use for blog posts. I will not edit or use samples from all the submissions I receive, but I will use as many as possible.
*** Find the Magic and the book I use for examples in FTM, Without Mercy, are both on sale for 1.50 each. Click HERE for Find the Magic and HERE for Without Mercy ***
How to write a novel? That is the question. There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people who ask it.
Wanting to write and actually doing it are two very different things. I am well acquainted with the sometimes grueling process of churning out a story. Over the years, I have tried many methods for creating and completing manuscripts, and have tweaked and honed it down to a workable (for me) process.
Using specific examples from one of my own novels, Without Mercy, I share my method in this mini how to book. The first eight steps actually deal with plotting while the last two are designed to help expand your outline into a well-developed draft. There is no one, perfect way to create a story, but there will be a method, or methods that work for you. I’m not sure if this is the one, but it works for me. Only you can decide if it also works for you. Fingers crossed that it does!
*** Warning – Please do not purchase without reading a sample. (This is solid advice for any book, fiction or non. If you are not intrigued in the sample, you will likely not enjoy the book)
Amazon: Click Here
9 responses to “Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip – Describe the Uniqueness of Your Characters”
Great suggestions! This is from my WIP: A thin blade of a nose, crinkles at the corners of his eyes, and lips that looked like they’d stretch into a shit-eating grin. She faced forward, her breath quick, not resisting a second peek. His wavy brown hair had a layered cut. Dang, this guy was more manicured that she. A third peek revealed a square chin. Shoot. All he needed was a tattoo. Yep, there one was, edging out from under his shirtsleeve, looking all Celtic.
I tend to add details as I go along, but here’s a description of Chad from TRAPPED UNDER ICE:
As she tried to figure out the famous rocker, she couldn’t help but admire his long legs, which were crossed at the ankles, and the well-defined biceps of his arms folded across his chest. Though she had never really considered anyone’s hands before, even the length of his fingers she found indescribably beautiful as they curled loosely around his arms. He wore a leather cord around his wrist, Beth noted, and several silver rings on his fingers. She wondered idly if they ever interfered with his guitar playing.
I think in characterization it’s a good place not to Joe Friday it (just the facts, ma’am). Don’t just describe the characters physical characteristics, but also add how they make you feel, or what they remind you of.
Nice post, as always!
More great tips Alicia!
Pinned to my Writing Process board on Pinterest
Good luck and God’s blessings
This is from The Case of the Bygone Brother:
She had trouble written all over her…When I got a good look at her, I saw the answer to my budget problems. Money, not trouble, was scrawled all over her, from the top of her blonde, perfectly-coifed hair to the tips of her Manolo Blahnik’s. In between, she wore a black Donna Karan sweater and skirt that cost more than I make in a week, or maybe a month. Add to that the Lincoln MKS parked in front of my office and you get my drift.
Good examples in the post, Alicia.
Thanks. Your examples really tell the tale. Another two-minute miracle!
I hate descriptions. I am terrible at writing them. I love these tips. The second ones do paint a stronger image.
Fantastic tips!…. as always. 🙂
I always loved descriptions…possibly too much. Yours are just right! Now. 🙂
Ha! I don’t know if mine are ‘just right,’ but they have definitely improved. I was really bad at description in the beginning. 🙂