Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Troubles with character description? Here are some tools.

Many first time authors have difficulties to describe their characters. Today, I'd like to get into the looks. Though many don't think a description is necessary, I love to give the reader an idea of what colour the hair, the eyes of my MCs are. How they dress and that all, if possible, quite detailed. What I read a lot in first time novels is a so called info dump: she was beautiful, had long black hair, blue eyes, had a slim figure and was tall. Though it isn't wrong, it's a rather boring list. It can be brought across wonderfully. And it doesn't have to be all in one go, it can be dropped whenever it's appropriate. You could have one character say to the other at the very end of the book," You know, I've never noticed you had such delicate hands, how come I missed that?"

Example 1: She was beautiful. 
He loved her fine features, the cheekbones, her fair skin -- if he wouldn't know better, he would think she's a model.
She's so beautiful, he thought, how will I ever plug up the courage to talk to her?
"Yeah, but you are beautiful, unlike me," she said.

Example 2: She had long black hair.
Without a further word, she briskly turned around, sending her long black hair flying through the air.
She watched herself in the mirror, all her life she'd worn her black her long, now it's time for a change.
He hunched over the painting, holding back his long black hair.
All she could see from the back was his long black hair.
She tied her long black hair into a pony tail and sighed.
"You will see," she said, blowing a lock of her long black hair out of the face. (Or flick it back.)

Example 3: He had blue eyes.
She couldn't stop staring into his amazing blue eyes.
How can someone have such blue eyes? she wondered.
"The blue of my eyes even changes according to my mood," he said.
"I wished I had your blue eyes instead of boring brown."

Example 4: She was slim and tall.
I wonder if she's a model, he thought, wouldn't be surprise with that figure.
"She must be a size 10," she said, throwing a jealous look at the girl, "and she's even taller than me on high heels."
He looked at her another time; she must be at least a foot taller than most of the girls here.
"That red dress really compliments your slim figure," he said.

Of course, my examples don't really work with every context, but often it's quite easy to incorporate some flow into the description. Her full lips parted in a smile, his blue eyes were wide as saucers, her slim figure suggested she's into sports, etc. Again, play around a bit ;-)

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