1. jwatson
    Offline

    jwatson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    canada

    The emergence of multiple new characters -- description

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jwatson, Feb 26, 2010.

    Hello everyone,

    I always seem to encounter the same problem each and every time I re-write this complicated novel I am working on. Two of my main characters will meet two other main characters for the first time, and I struggle at how I describe them. I always seem to go "character A looked like this" and then go straight to "character B looked like this."

    What happens in the novel is, my two main characters knock on the door of a room, not knowing who they are going to find, only knowing that they must enter the room. Then, they each are taken hostage from behind. Once the new two characters identify the arrivals, they let them in the room and all is good. But then my protagonist turns around and sees them. And that's where it gets messy. I mean, the method I have been using seems too textbook, if you know what I mean (main character turns around, sees them, then I write what they look like).

    Any tips for this sort of thing?

    Thank you for your time,

    J
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Don't waste time describing them if the character doesn't have time to look them over, and a reason to pay attention to their appearance.

    Description can become an obsession. If you really need to give a description, wait. The opportunity will present.
     
  3. Gabriel
    Offline

    Gabriel New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2010
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    it depends on how important the characters are. If you give them alot of detail and action, then the reader is going to think that the characters are important and remember them. If the reader isn't going to ever see those characters again, then keep description on the low side. i have found the best way to do description is by the "show don't tell" rule. Reveal things about your character by what he says and though his actions.

    Another factor to consider is if your novel is first person or third person point of view. if it is first person, then it depends on how good a look the people get. if its third person then you have more freedom and you can do as little or as much details to your heart's desire.
     
  4. kmet
    Offline

    kmet Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2010
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would suggest, if they are all going to be main characters, maybe give one description for a point of reference to remember each character. (A particular feature that would stick out in the readers mind. Like crazy blue eyes or something.) You can build from that slowly as the story progresses.

    Are you not naming them immediately?
     
  5. nettkkr
    Offline

    nettkkr Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2010
    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Aberdeen, SD
    I agree with kmet, character A has a huge mole on his left cheek and character be has has a twitch in their left eye. Otherwise you can describe them down the road when there's more time for character c to really look at them.

    While resting (Character C) notices just how beautiful (Character A) is despite the hairy mole. (Enter rest of description here)
     
  6. Gallowglass
    Offline

    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Messages:
    1,617
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Loch na Seilg, Alba
    I describe them as the other character sees them:

    'Jazzrow flicked her hair back, searching the dark recesses of her dirty mind for more enlightened topic. The conversation was far from Anthony's mind, and for the first time he noticed it's ebony sheen.'
     
  7. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    What Gallowglass said. If you must give descriptions for characters, bear in mind the perspective of your protagonist (main-main(?) character?). "His eyes were as gold as autumn wheat" or "Her black hair reminded me of a deep lake under a moonless night sky" or "Damn, Charlie! Why don't you move your black ass over and let this poor white boy in the car?"
    You don't need to top load descriptions of characters. A bit here and a bit there should suffice and, if your reader is paying attention, they will be able to put all the pieces together. And, unless a particular quality is vitally important to the story, if they forget that this one had blond hair or that one had grey eyes, does it really matter?
     
  8. SilverWolf0101
    Offline

    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2009
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    New York State
    With any fast pace situation (a.k.a your hostage situation) no character will have 30 mins to completely look their opponent over. Sometimes they barely have a minute to do so.

    So how do you describe them? Its like everyone else said. Do it by what people would notice in mere seconds. Like netkkr said, a mole. If your not so sure what to point out think about what the police ask when they ask a witness to describe a suspect. Their height, weight, did they have any strange features? What was their nationality? Etc, etc.

    Don't go overboard with the information. One secret I found as an artist was to time yourself and draw the most important features, things that will make the subject stand out. Only instead of drawing, your writing. I suggest trying it, you may not get too far, but it'll train you to point out the most important features first.
     
  9. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    And then, too, How many of these are truly main characters and which ones are really just important secondary? With four main characters, you don't want to get into a case of "too many chiefs and not enough indians"
     
  10. Gabriel
    Offline

    Gabriel New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2010
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Character Hierarchy

    when deciding the importance of a character, think about what they add to the plot. if they don't do much, then they dont need alot of time investment. the more they add to the plot, the more you should do with them. a good book to check out is orsen scott card's character and viewpoint. another thing to remember is that the more actions, appearance, and choices a character makes, the more important he becomes to the readers.
     

Share This Page