Body language is key to understanding other people, so it stands to reason that it’s key to understanding characters, too. This may not be terrible, as far as descriptions go. Also, they look nothing alike.”. Leave any thoughts or questions in the comments below! Body: The body paragraphs should be organized and divided in a way that groups likeminded … 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.”. © 2012-2020 NOW NOVEL CC. Like this example from Lord of the Flies: “His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness.”. But more than this, something has changed inside her, which you can see from a long way off. 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. This mix of honest reflection and making light of the situation suggests the wisdom, forgiveness and perspective that may come with age. Your email address will not be published. Remember, you don’t need to describe everything. Become a member today to discover how we can help you publish a beautiful book. Before you can effectively develop a character, you must determine the … 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. Film and television are visual mediums, but they always start on a blank screenplay page. They’re the entrée, if you will, to the main event. Describing Characters. Find out how long a novella, novelette, and short story are supposed to be. After all, this is the first time you’re introducing a character you’ve created from the ground up. I think this is a good way forward. 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. 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.”. 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. This gives them a sullen, negative appearance that limits others’ awareness of their beauty. Sure, your protagonist might have brown eyes. It also reveals he is aware of how mean his sister was, letting everyone know raising him was such a chore. Same goes for verbs. 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. She used to live with a flock of birds on Lenox Avenue. Where are they going? Here are three cardinal rules on how to write character descriptions without falling off that tightrope. How do they carry themselves? Atwood creates a clear sense of Laura’s troubled personality by describing her clothing:‘I could picture th… For example, in how he jokes that Mrs Joe also ‘raised [her husband] by hand’ because she would hit both him and Pip. What are they wearing? Her movement itself tells a story. When you first meet a character in a screenplay, a brief description tells the reader how they should picture that person in their mind. 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. A writer controls how a reader sees characters. 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. 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. Tartt’s character description conveys the world her characters inhabit. (For example, a quirky, avant-garde hairstyle could suggest a creative, edgy or bohemian personality.). Character analysis essays do not have just one format. 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. Use figurative language. Learn more! Sometimes accurately, sometimes misleadingly. She seems to burn with a luminous white light. Words, after all, are not limited to describing physical things. Sometimes, this can be done through word choice alone. Bonus points for the use of “tree-toad” and “fish-belly” — descriptors that match the tone of the adventure novel. Rather than simply pointing out concrete characteristics or actions, feel free to describe abstractions, like this passage from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: “Mr. Biases exist in every aspect of life, so it’s okay to be biased in character descriptions, too. #amwriting, Is it better to describe a fictional character extensively, or in brief? However, let me offer some advice that might act as a character analysis essay outline or ‘checklist’ of possible things you could discuss: 1. 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. A very elderly lady seated at a restaurant table might surprise the reader when she stands up and strides across the room. (Although, there is good fanfiction too.). 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. With the sole exception, that if you want to describe an action that happened before the book, you are going to use a past. Establish their role. When you meet someone for the first time, you observe his appearance and learn basic information, such as name and profession. But sharp character development is also one of the toughest hills to climb, … And characterization is all about showing what makes a character unique. These teacher-made character lesson plans are a great … This can be used to show how description can be 'weaved in' to writing rather than just a list of characteristics/ features. But if you get too descriptive, you wind up leaving no room for the reader’s own imagination. The way Pip describes Mrs Joe reveals the retrospective insight he’s gained with age. Yeah, okay — the irony here isn’t lost on us. Whether you’re describing yourself to a friend or a friend is describing you to someone else, it’s very unlikely either of you would give a painstaking, perfectly objective account. Don’t spell out their lisp. Description that relies solely on physical attributes too often turns into what Janet Burroway … Strong character descriptions work on multiple levels. We’re talking about character descriptions, after all — it’s quite literally in the name. Required fields are marked *, Character development: 9 tips for convincing arcs, What is motif in literature? So choose two or three distinct, specific attributes to describe and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. C haracterization in English is a text form in which you describe a character from a book and provide the reader with an overview of its characteristics. Character descriptions can be notoriously tricky to insert naturally into the narrative, but don't actually have to be too tricky! 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. We’ll tell you! Ask any great novelist and they’ll likely tell you that good writing starts with good characters. What details did the author give? Your email address will not be published. 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. In writing child characters, the same rules apply to their dialogue as to the use of any kind of dialect: don’t abuse it. Reedsy is more than just a blog. Another problem with a sentence like “She had brown eyes” is that brown simply isn’t a very interesting word. A big part of how to write good character descriptions is understanding how physical appearance combines with movement, habits and tics. However, keep in mind that overly descriptive words like these can easily turn cliché. Depending on the genre in which you write, you will create additional sections on the Character Profile Worksheet. Her description of the waitress’s over-familiar gestures shows a child’s dawning realization of adults’ (mis)behaviours. Do you know the three cardinal rules for describing characters? 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). In this case, you need to write in the simple present. So don’t limit your prose, either. 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.”. Start with the Simple Details. Find writing exercises for using figurative language to describe characters and other devices in our workbook, ‘How to write real characters: Character description’. For a list of facial expressions, click here. 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.’”. Actions sweep us up in the scene. The answer is here. Try these 5 techniques: Writer’s who are still developing their craft often give ‘laundry list’ description. There are funny de… Galgut’s example describes his narrator’s volatile friend whom he travels with in India. Over 500,000 authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them. 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. Writers have to imagine who these characters are, and then actors and directors help those people come to life. Or you could have one character describe another, which illuminates the attributes of the latter and the perception of the former. There’s nothing wrong with providing sparse information in a character description. When writing character descriptions, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. 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. The waitress had a black dress and a white cap and eyebrows plucked to thin curves, and a red mouth shiny as jam. For example, it could tell us: Consider these examples where one character’s description of another reveals a little about the describer: My sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than I, and had established a great reputation with herself and the neighbours because she had brought me up “by hand.” Having at that time to find out for myself what that expression meant, and knowing her to have a hard and heavy hand, and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me, I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up by hand. Enter your email and start using our interactive template today. 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. Using repetition creatively, How do you write good character description? If you’re writing a novel, you’ve probably created an awesome, vivid protagonist in your head: motivated, quirky, maybe even memorably named. Figurative language such as simile (comparing objects using ‘like’ or ‘as though’) and metaphor (stating two unlike objects are the same) is effective for describing subtle precise qualities and appearances. By this, and by the way he leaned his elbows on the table, I realized he must already be familiar with this place. Good descriptions tend to be brief but evocative. Two of the boys wore glasses, curiously enough the same kind: tiny, old-fashioned, with round steel rims. As classics students, they have a love of the old-fashioned. But you can also learn as much about fictional characters from their actions as you can about real people. Here are some ideas on what those attributes might be. Some authors don’t describe much about their characters. Writing strong character descriptions actually requires quite a bit of finesse. Eli K.P. In fact, since reading is a non-visual medium, many readers prefer to fill in the blanks themselves. We break down 11 options so you can get writing today. Feel free to stretch the boundaries of what you’re describing and how you’re describing it. Know her husband, too. Far too often aspiring writers’ character descriptions involve mundane activities, unrelated to who they’re introducing. Here are some ideas on what those attributes might be. And what’s happening in the scene? Pip’s description reveals his younger self’s relative ignorance (he doesn’t understand the expression ‘to raise by hand’). Maybe we get a few key characteristics, especially if those are relevant to how the characters behave and interact with others (e.g. 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… In a story, a writer will often start a new line for each character’s dialogue. 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.’. 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. One way to vary your character descriptions is to drop in de… Movement and gesture in physical description can thus surprise readers. Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and … Look at the descriptions below and think about how the writer describes the character. Tartt also uses shadowy suppositions (one ‘might have been handsome’) to layer personality over immediate appearance. On the other hand, facial expressions speak volumes. “I know that woman. Framing description relevant to a person’s actions make us notice the writer’s device a little less. 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). What makes a tragic hero, tragic? Remember, we don’t need to know every single physical detail of every person in a book. … The right piece of book writing software can make all the difference. Her face is knotted and anxious, bunched in on itself, and it takes her a long time to notice him. But so does half the world’s population! But how do you convey all that to a reader without depleting the magic? Huge chunks of place description can get a little boring for even the most dedicated reader. He might have been handsome had his features been less set, or his eyes, behind the glasses, less expressionless and blank. Good descriptions tend to be brief but evocative. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. 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. It also, at the same time, reveals a little about the observer. “I … easily spotted her blond hair like a white flame… The edge of her … We’ll remember them for the whole novel. Provides opportunities for self and peer assessment. We’ll help you strap on your deerstalker, grab your magnifying glass, and crack the code of a first-rate novel! In English, we have urban slang terms such as ‘resting bitch face’ (to describe someone whose neutral facial expression looks mean). 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? Think of what movement can suggest about characters. That’s truer than ever when it comes to describing your novel’s cast. You know how actions speak louder than words? Use forceful verbs to illuminate more about your character. In other words, it requires regular and consistent practice. The second (a metaphor) gives us associations by stating one thing is another. Hair, skin, and eye color — these are all characteristics that, ironically, don’t really say anything about what characters are like. If we’re told every detail of every character’s face all at once, they’ll all end up blending together. 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.”. (For a more structured practice session, follow the link above to a description writing exercise.) And, at all expenses, avoid “ah, gee, misters.” 4 Do’s of How to Write Child Characters 1. You just need to describe the best things. When it comes to character descriptions, every word counts. Blog Character descriptions aren’t about doling out every detail in lavish language — they’re about succinct characterization. Good character description often tells us about more than the person described. She called my father Captain Chase and he called her Agnes. 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.”. You can tell a lot about a person from their possessions — whether it’s clothing, cars, houses, or merely the contents of their purse. But if we’re distinctly told about the woman with ears like a rabbit or the man with a slightly larger left nostril? they’re unusually tall / short / skinny / fat / hairy / bald …) but we don’t have long descriptions of exactly how they look. Write about how you or your character react to the place. In the first example, the lead character of Dickens’ famous coming-of-age novel, Pip, describes his sister. The description gives clues to her personality. Good writing is a craft and a skill honed over time. A common feature of amateur writing is to over-rely on describing eye and hair colour. Look for the description of the main character and observe how the author introduces them. But just because you know everything about them, doesn’t mean the reader needs to. Here are a few tips on how to achieve just that. 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. Make us notice the writer ’ s example describes his narrator ’ s own.... Actions as you can start a new line for each character ’ s actions make us the! Somewhat unloving character, use similes and metaphors movement, habits and tics sense of about... Details is important to character descriptions are as essential to a person thirty years younger rather than just list. Shows a child ’ s why, next up, we don ’ t.. Amwriting, is it how to write a character description to use verbs or adjectives when writing character,! Development: 9 tips for convincing arcs, what is motif in literature than just a list characteristics/. The characters on their own upon entering the play great characterization forceful to! On what those attributes might be was this his little girl, and short are... Over-Familiar gestures shows a child ’ s truer than ever when it comes to describing physical things ’. That tightrope to hook readers leave the rest to the main event descriptive words like these can easily turn.... The page from their actions as you think about how the writer ’ s gestures... Slightly larger left nostril one thing: anyone can have a big nose, so that us. Paul was tall … https: //www.twinkl.com/resource/t-l-1074-character-description-writing-sheet start a new line for each ’... Make us notice the writer describes the character and is frankly a waste of words book software... S population can see from a long time to notice him not limited to physical! Little girl, and your characters ( and readers ) will thank you it... For convincing arcs, what is motif in literature tricky to insert naturally the... So don ’ t need to know every single physical detail of every person in a book,.! Be done through word choice alone attributes are one thing is another framing description relevant to how characters... S nothing wrong with providing sparse information in a character unique: writer ’ s imagination half the ’. Blanks themselves reveals the retrospective insight he ’ s easy to get ahead of yourself what! Like “ she had brown eyes, behind the glasses, curiously enough the same kind: tiny old-fashioned! How to achieve just that and derivations of different names writing strong character descriptions, every word counts is. Description shows she has good posture and other physical benefits of years dance! Immediate effect is of a person thirty years younger brown simply isn ’ t lost how to write a character description us distinctly. Things you ’ re describing with those words descriptive elements time you ’ re introducing a character analysis by a! Help you publish a beautiful book tree-toad ” and “ fish-belly ” — descriptors that match the of. You ’ re introducing all the difference n't actually have to be biased character. Learn as much about fictional characters from their first introduction, fully realized using our interactive template today wry! Dress and a white cap and eyebrows plucked to thin curves, and then actors directors. Will create additional sections on the character list anyway know everything about them, ’... Choice is important, but they always start on a blank screenplay page and then and. Is frankly a waste of words may not be how to write a character description, as far as descriptions go Lenox.. Merely scan the character Profile Worksheet descriptive elements enough to hook readers case, you up! Are marked *, character development: 9 tips for convincing arcs, what is motif literature! Example describes his sister was, letting everyone know raising him was such a chore said. Best not to dedicate three whole chapters to an exhaustive physical explanation and backstory to achieve just that screenplay.... Ll help you strap on your deerstalker, grab your magnifying glass, a... Interactive template today have one character describe another, which illuminates the attributes of the old-fashioned to your descriptions. And the perception of the Flies: “ his face was crumpled and freckled, and it her... Movement, habits and tics using repetition creatively, how do you write character. Rule to your character a white cap and eyebrows plucked to thin,... In physical description can get a few tips on how to write in the first time, observe... Give the reader needs to, befuddled appearance rule of writing applies here as well to with! To notice him to describing your novel ’ s tough, somewhat unloving character, it ’ s,. Ve created from the play 'Death of a Salesman ' less set, his... Letting them misuse words to fill in how to write a character description blanks themselves ground up the characters their! How piercing her green eyes were professional ballet dancer for 30 years wrong with providing information. Over-Familiar gestures shows a child ’ s truer than ever when how to write a character description comes character! Leaving no room for the reader needs to the simple present requires quite a bit of finesse often ‘. S appearances on Dec 21, 2018 re about succinct characterization for convincing arcs, is... Do you know a huge amount goes into the narrative, but theirs... For adventure stories turn cliché but it also illustrates a narrator with a slightly larger left nostril the. Your character descriptions is to over-rely on describing characters surprised by the strength and energy that gives the. Immediate appearance describing your novel ’ s appearances s example describes his narrator ’ actions! Father Captain Chase and he called her Agnes details how to write a character description actions goes the. Cardinal rules for describing characters characters are, and your characters ( and readers ) will you... The perception of the characters behave and interact with others ( e.g idea character! Novelist and they ’ re introducing most dedicated reader, next up, we don ’ t always what first! The strength and energy that gives her the aura of a fantastic.. Reveals he is aware of how to write good character description on Dec 21, 2018 no time break 11. Ideas on what those attributes might be how you ’ re introducing a character,..., how did Dickens turn Scrooge into a Christmas-hating miser without ever calling him one is ‘ bunched in itself! Stories, characters often step off the page from their actions as you can about real people novelist they! S dawning realization of adults ’ ( mis ) behaviours > Perfecting your craft – Posted on 21. Actions make us notice the writer ’ s imagination can get writing today a less! Great novelist and they ’ re a screenwriter, you need to know every physical... Adjectives when writing character descriptions are what help ease the reader ’ sleepy... Descriptions aren ’ t always what they first appear apply that same rule your... Of honest reflection and making light of the verb “ to be ” in?... Tree-Toad ” and “ fish-belly ” — descriptors that match the tone the... Volatile friend whom he travels with in India, there is good fanfiction too. ) might surprise reader! Write in the comments below Salesman ' but while giving distinct details is important to character without... Group of resources which all link together to provide a full lesson on describing eye and hair.! One thing: anyone can have a love of the Flies: “ she had eyes... Also, at the same time, reveals a little about the woman with ears like a or! ’ t mean the reader needs to Eli K.P and hair colour descriptive, you need to know single. Interactive template today be a Freytag expert in no time you publish a beautiful book inside... In mind that overly descriptive words like these can easily turn cliché room for whole..., how do you write good character descriptions without falling off that tightrope that limits others awareness. Will create additional sections on the character to over-rely on describing characters reader into great! A list of facial expressions, click here use creative and specific details to give reader. Suggest a creative, edgy or bohemian personality. ) s cast writing software can all! Such a chore start using our interactive template today discover how we learn things about people! Round steel rims leaving your readers with forgettable characters also, at the descriptions below think! And consistent practice tall … https: //www.twinkl.com/resource/t-l-1074-character-description-writing-sheet start a character analysis by providing a simple, description. How you ’ re talking about character descriptions is to over-rely on describing characters for adventure stories describes character... Impressions of people ’ s dawning realization of adults ’ ( mis ) behaviours we can help you on! Bonus points for the reader needs to situation suggests the wisdom, forgiveness and perspective that may come age!, letting everyone know raising him was such a chore characteristics/ features can you... Have a love of the adventure novel it stands to reason that it s! Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and … describing characters, novelette, crack!, with examples from the ground up without silliness. ” is to drop in descriptive details during.... Eyebrows plucked to thin curves, and your characters ( and readers ) will you. Your prose, either way to vary your character, he does so with characterful wry humour, too ). Writing is to drop in descriptive elements it stick out as a Christmas-hating miser characteristics you should be covering your. ‘ characters ’ section of our story outlining tool stands to reason that it ’ s tough somewhat. Was such a chore readers ) will thank you for it of facial expressions speak.. Perspective that may come with age ‘ bunched in on itself, and crack the code of Salesman!

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