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  1. jamescarroll_uk
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    jamescarroll_uk New Member

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    How would...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jamescarroll_uk, Jan 5, 2008.

    im planning a first person narrative, with the narrator being the main protagonist. I just cant seem to get the character description nailed seeing as it will actually be the character... describing himself...

    any help is much appreciated folks! examples are good too =D
     
  2. Zetta
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    Zetta Member

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    Show, don't tell...;)

    I'm working on a first person narrative, too. And since it's a fantasy and the action starts abruptly, there's hardly any time for me to explain things to the reader, much less work on character description. I feel ya, james.

    My suggestion would be to alude to what you what to tell. Like instead of saying "I was feeling nervous", you could get it across as "I perched on a chair in the waiting room, nibbling idly at the corner of my fingernail."

    I'd try to give more suggestions, but I really must get offline. I'll be back to see how you're doing later... And while I'm thinking about it, welcome to WF!
     
  3. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Sometimes what I do is I give the reader bits and pieces.
    Like, "I placed my hand in my soft brown hair."
    Or sometimes when they are in a house or a place with reflections I put something like, "I stared deeply in the reflection. A thin man with wiry hair..."
    Use your imagination and you can come up with good ways to do stuff.
     
  4. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Why bother describing him/her? What they look like will come through in the narrative, how people react, what clothing they choose to wear, et cetera. According to my 'how to write stuff' reading, one of the cheap shots in first-person writing is the 'mirror sequence', where the character looks in the mirror and that lets you get a description. Have an early interaction to show what your character looks like- another character describing them in dialogue would work well.

    Try this- have the character ask another one what they think about them, then have the other describe the first in broad strokes. Detail is unnecessary- how often do you think about what you look like? If you were to describe yourself, how much would you write? And, third, if someone asked you what they looked like, what would you say? How much detail would you give?

    Anyway, find some first-person novels and read those. That should help.
     
  5. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Its not cheap.
    Especially the way I do it. I was just giving an example of something.
     
  6. Axis
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    Axis Member

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    Don't describe them. There's no need. Let the reader build the character themselves. They will form a picture of him/her from their actions, the way they speak, and the way other people react to them. There's no need for you to build that picture.
     
  7. Axis
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    It's not cheap, but I think it's pointless and extremely difficult to do without appearing heavyhanded.
     
  8. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    The mirror sequence can be done well, but there are a couple of prerequisites to make it happen. First, the character has to have a valid reason, that feeds into the story arc, to be looking at themselves in the mirror. Second, they have to have a valid reason, that feeds into the story arc, to be thinking of how they look.

    How many times do you really stand in front of your own reflection and think, "My goodness, how very blue my eyes are."

    Overhearing others talking about their own physical characteristics can be useful.

    Even if your jump right into a battle sequence, an opponent can say, "You're too much of a pretty-boy to be fighting," or "Your red hair will make an impressive trophy," or "I haven't killed a blue eyed man all week."

    There are ways to do it if you are seriously locked into first-person, but not all of them are good.
     
  9. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    Don't bother. Most readers can make a character for themselves, in their heads. Plus, sometimes it's even fun to cast yourself as the main character.

    Besides, that's what book covers/movies are for. ;)
     
  10. jamescarroll_uk
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    jamescarroll_uk New Member

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    i was thinking something quite similar actually. a picture would plant the image i have of the character in the readers mind wouldnt it. But then the problem of whether the reader likes to develop their own image of the character comes around.


    thanks very much for your input so far as well everyone. im still a little undecided of how im going to do it, but you've all helped massively so far :)
     
  11. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    The cover comment was intended as a joke, but...heck, why not?
     

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