1. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    How much of a character the reader needs to know

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by live2write, Feb 26, 2013.

    I have this tendency to overwrite my descriptions. Especially with the characters I try to put as much information to describe the character in so many words. How much information is too much? How much is too little?

    Example: When describing one of my characters, he is half wolf and half human. He looks like a human, except for his short torso, long arms and legs, long mane, piercing cat like eyes, slightly protruded snout and muscle structure like a body builder. Should I leave it at that when the physical description or should I be adding more detail. I understand with personality it comes with dialogue and the actions of the character.
     
  2. Snicket
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    Snicket Member

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    Personally, my favorite thing is adding in details throughout the text of the first chapter.

    "Well this is a lot worse than what I thought," he said fidgeting with his long boney fingers.

    I like giving it through action and through thought, etc.
     
  3. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    There are many ways you can do it, how much you want to tell the reader is up to you if you want every detail but i suggest leave somethings to their imagination tell them only what is important to the plot, also you dont need to tell everything in one go but add details as you go in the story like Snikcet suggested in a subtle way
     
  4. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I think the current thinking, if there can be such a thing, is to slowly reveal 'in passing' rather than stopping to describe. In that way the story is still in some way moving along. I think of it as giving the reader 'impressions' of detail rather than describing detail.

    Additionally, I try to imply as much as I can rather than outright tell. If I say 'his house was out in the suburbs', I hope it gives the reader an impression of a bigger house in spacious grounds without having to actually say 'his big house was set in spacious grounds on the edge of the city'.
     
  5. NellaFantasia
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    NellaFantasia Member

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    I think it also depends on the viewpoint. Are you writing from his viewpoint and he's describing himself, or are you writing from someone else's viewpoint and you're describing what they're seeing? If you're writing from another character's viewpoint it's fine to lump all that together and add detail as it's something someone would notice of their surroundings, especially if they're not used to seeing a half human, half wolf. However, if he's describing himself then it's best to take it slowly in subtle ways. Most people don't sit around and think about how they look in exact detail on a daily basis.
     
  6. rodney adams
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    rodney adams Member

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    I agree with JanJ. The reader should generally know what the character looks like, but I think it's easier on the reader if you describe the intimate details a character as his or her features become important to the plot
     
  7. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I release the description of a character like peeling an artichoke, that is, slowly over several chapters. I leave the "assembly" to the reader. In the case of my MC, the description is the key to the tale.
     
  8. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    Thank you. I see what you all mean by adding enough detail to allow the audience fill in the gaps. Of course I may describe how long his hair is and make a connection to how broad or boney his back is. But I can see with the other more human characters, I do not need to describe everything except for meaningful details like scars or deformities or elements that can make the character stand out of the crowd.

    and NellaFantasia, I am currently writing my novel in first person. Though there might be a possibility it may need to be written in third person
     

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