A Writer's Journey

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Victor Hugo

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Character Description

I don't know about you, but one of the things that I must have when I begin writing a character is a clear picture in my head of what the character looks like. I know that some would say it's a beginner's tell that all the characters must be thoroughly described, but back up a minute here. It doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to clearly picture everything from the slightly longer index finger of his right hand to the cluster of beauty marks on the nape of her neck. I just meant that I needed to get enough of a physical description in my head that would allow me to visualize what the character looks like so that I can get a feel for how they would look when they react to certain things or say certain phrases. Does that make sense?

Okay, let me give an example.

Example One

Even at first glance, his face was something that called attention. His hair, black as night, was untidy enough that it clashed somewhat with the groomed appearance of his clothing. The contours of his face were angular, though not severe, framing the thin mouth and warm brown eyes that slightly contrasted against the alabaster skin. His lean build, obvious under the long-sleeved shirt he wore, reminded me of a statue I had once seen in the gallery of the Accademia di Belle Arti.

What are you picturing? Does it make it easier to picture mystery boy in this situation than if I just said "He had dark hair and dark eyes."? This, by the way, is an excerpt from my current WIP. *toots my own horn* LOL Does the description to you, as the reader, help or hinder your ability to picture this character?

Another thing that helps me to visualize the characters even more is to make myself a fantasy cast list. *dreamy-eyed stare* This helps to cement the character's physical characteristics to certain actions or mannerisms I've seen in the actor's previous work. It helps ME, as the writer, to see the picture more clearly in my head.

And just in case any of you were wondering WHO I was picturing when I wrote the description above, here you go. *gives out sham-wows because I sure needed it*

*clears my throat and wipes the drool* Sorry, where were we? Oh yeah, character description. *coughs and blinks* What are your thoughts on character description and do you prefer more or less when you're in reader mode?


  1. LOL, Ani. I love your way with words...and pictures. Your character comes vividly to mind.

    I think I tend to be too spare on my descriptions and need to work on this.

  2. LOL Thanks hun! I'm glad you enjoyed the post...and the visuals! ;) Some might say I'm overly descriptive, but I have some days when I go back and forth. Most days, they're right. Bahahaha!

  3. oh yeah... I know who that is!! *grabs sham-wow*


    Erm. Okay, focus. I am with you, although I also think it's better to spread out physical descriptions so you're not giving a profile sheet to the reader.

  5. For me it depends on how important the character is, the POV I'm using, and my mood for the particular character. I feel silly having a first-person narrative spend a paragraph on their appearance--unless they're vain. And to go into so much detail about a stranger seen in one scene also seems silly. But I love describing villians and love interests--they're always the most fun to describe.

  6. @Corinne Mmhmm. I know you know that I already knew you would know who this was. *nods all secret like*

    @Lori OMG. Four words. COFFEE. THROUGH. MY. NOSE. #thatisall
    p.s. I've been trying to be better about not sticking in a bunch of unnecessary descripts. *refrains from revising unfinished first draft*

    @Brea I'm SO glad you're with me on this! LOL I like watching them play it out in my head. I mean, who wouldn't want Joseph Gordon-Levitt saying swoon-worthy lines in your head, right? *shifty eyes*

    @Jenna How much description do you dole out in the beginning chapters for villains? Also, what makes the love interests' description differ from a normal description? *is curious and also wordy* LOL

  7. homina homina homina....

    that boy

    in that vest


  8. Okay, I'll be honest. This blog post was my poorly disguised excuse to post homina homina pictures of JGL. *dies* Guilty as charged. LOL

  9. OMG, JGL!!! I so approve of this post! :) My enjoyment of Inception was upped like 200% because of JGL and those impeccably tailored suits. GAH.

    Um, what were we talking about? Oh, character description. Yeah, they're great if they're not info-dumpy. If a character is interesting/important, they probably warrant more description.

  10. Yes, what Alice said. *nods and stares at the post*