1. Reilley Turner
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    Reilley Turner Active Member

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    Too much description for a minor character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Reilley Turner, Jun 9, 2015.

    The guard was a fit, muscular man, armed with a cudgel and a short, double-headed whip he called “Disciplinary Action,” which he used often when Evil Male Wizard 1 showed hesitation, defiance, or when the guard felt like it.

    Is it too much description for a minor character that gets killed off literally minutes after?

    PS "Evil Male Wizard 1" is a placeholder, as I have only gotten a name that I like for one character, and no names for any of the locations.
     
  2. BookLover
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    BookLover Contributing Member

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    No, I think it 's a good amount of description.
     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't see a problem with the amount of description per se, but I would encourage you to write it in a manner that reads a little less like a list.

    PS. the whip has its own name? o_O
     
  4. Reilley Turner
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    Reilley Turner Active Member

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    What do you mean, writing it in a manner that reads a little less like a list? And yes, the whip has a name because the guard is (or was) a cruel, cruel man. That's what made him such a good guard, the prisoners were afraid of getting whipped. :bigtongue:
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like a list:

    Character was a, b, c, and d.

    Less like a list (though with other flaws):

    Unlike most people with a, Character was extremely b; people were often startled into remarking on it upon meeting him in person. But Jane had been won over by his c, which reminded her very much of her brother, especially since they had the same d.
     
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  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    So, your description was:
    The guard was a fit, muscular man, armed with a cudgel and a short, double-headed whip he called “Disciplinary Action,” which he used often when Evil Male Wizard 1 showed hesitation, defiance, or when the guard felt like it.​

    The whole thing reads a lot like a list. Just listen to it: fit, muscular, with a cudgel and a whip.

    Then later: when Wizard 1 showed hesitation, defiance, or...

    There's nothing wrong with it, but you're just naming things one after the other. It's bland. If you want the guard to be imposing, you should do it a little differently. Just saying "fit and muscular" doesn't conjure any feelings or really a very specific image at all. Being armed with weapons is a fact that doesn't tell me the temperament or personality of the guard, thus it is very neutral. Naming the instances when the whip would be used - eg. when someone shows hesitation or defiance - is mostly a matter of telling and not showing (and also doesn't seem so unreasonable of the guard either, making it a fairly ordinary piece of info). It doesn't make me think of either the guard or the wizard as a real human being - it's just a list of information. The cruelty is mostly shown in the last piece of info: "when the guard felt like it" but that's eclipsed by all the other not-so-powerful descriptors that came before.

    In my opinion, you're really missing the opportunity to make your reader feel something, react somehow. It needn't be long - it could be expressed in the same number of words, maybe even less - it's not how much description there is but how you describe it.
     
  7. Inkwell1
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    Inkwell1 Active Member

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    I think it's a perfect amount of description. You need enough to accurately picture the scene, and I definitely can from this.
     
  8. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    I like it, I would only change "showed defiance in hesitation" maybe that what he means by list writing.
     
  9. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    wow that blew up fast. leave the rest it makes it edgy, which can be good.
     
  10. Reilley Turner
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    Reilley Turner Active Member

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    I get your point, but don't know how to execute it (at the moment, it might suddenly hit me.)

    Here's the whole passage (unedited):

    How could I change this?
     
  11. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like that the whip has a name. :)
     
  12. Reilley Turner
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    Reilley Turner Active Member

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    Thanks. I felt that it really added a sense of cruelty to his nature.
     
  13. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think this is fine, although fit and muscular kind of imply the same thing. It may be somewhat list-y, but this is a minor character, so you probably don't want to spend a paragraph on him just to adhere to show-don't-tell. Unless you deem it important to show your POV character's reactions to this guy's looks right away and want the description to fit your character's personality (EMW1 suppressed a whimper. This guard was built like a mountain goblin and probably enjoyed similar past times, such as tearing children's spines out with bare hands and slamming grown men against rocks until they were soft and squishy like overripe pumpkins) or if you come up with some simile or some such that you like, feel free to throw it there to liven it up. (The guard looked like he ate, slept, and crapped in the gymnasium; he was that muscular.)

    Of course, if he gets killed later, evoking as much distaste towards the guard as possible might work because you'll then offer an emotional pay-off to your reader when the guy gets killed. Or, the opposite, maybe he's supposed to be sympathetic, so you can write his descriptions in a way that evokes sympathy. Whatever your goal is, work with that. So I guess your decision depends on how you want your reader to react. E.g. short and to the point (like a list) works if you don't want to give this guy too much attention.
     
  14. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    What kind of perspective are you using? Unless you're using an omniscient narrator, you might have to "show, not tell" the name of the whip there or else it might be a POV error there.

    Does your viewpoint character know he has named his whip? How do they know? Etc. If you're writing in third person limited, your narrator can't know anything that your POV character doesn't know.
     
  15. Reilley Turner
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    Reilley Turner Active Member

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    Sorry I didn't respond earlier, I don't know how to answer those questions. :/

    I want as much hate to be directed towards the guard as possible, but at the same time sympathy because of the way he dies
     
  16. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Mine, you mean?

    If you did mean mine, I was asking about how your book is written - in one of the most common perspectives in books (Harry Potter, as an example), the "narrator", i.e. the bits of prose that isn't someone speaking, only knows as much as the point of view character. If Harry doesn't know someone's name, the narrative can only refer to them as "the wizard with the bushy eyebrows" or something, until he finds out their name. If you're using this kind of perspective, then either your POV character already knows this information somehow, or we find it out alongside him (by either being told by someone else who knows, or seeing him refer to it in that way). Your narrator can't know that the guard refers to his weapons by specific names for the same reason I can't know what colour underwear you're wearing today.

    Many books use a version of this which switches points of view, so the "narrator" knows different things in different sections - A Game of Thrones, for example, where each chapter takes place from a different person's perspective, but while Bran (and the reader) discovers what's going on between the Lannisters early on, the chapters from other characters' perspectives still treat it as a mystery because they haven't found out that information yet. If you're using a style that switches points of view like this, perhaps you could have one told from the guard's perspective, showing that he's a vicious, vindictive git, but that he has a family to take care of or something.

    On the other hand, if you're using an "omniscient" narrator, who knows everything about the story, even when the main characters don't (used to be more common than it generally is now), then none of this matters, because the narrator already knows it.

    Does this make more sense?
     
  17. Reilley Turner
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    Reilley Turner Active Member

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    Yes, it does, and from the sounds of it, I think that it is third person. Well, more of a mixture of first and third.

    Example: Evil male wizard 1, as well as the reader, doesn't know evil female wizard 1's name until she tells Evil male wizard 1.

    Can I do this? Or is it not recommended?
     
  18. cragcrusher
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    cragcrusher New Member

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    With minor characters, description is key. You are giving your reader the same amount of description that the main character has. I find that for myself, i like to leave main characters largely without description, to spark the readers imagination on what the character looks like based on his actions and surroundings, while i describe the heck out of smaller characters to help with setting and plot.
     
  19. cragcrusher
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    cragcrusher New Member

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