1. Smelly Wookies
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    Smelly Wookies New Member

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    What would be the best way to describe a character in a story?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Smelly Wookies, Apr 6, 2015.

    Like, either physically or something. Would it be better for you to describe the character as soon as they enter the scene in one shot, or start out with something small, like a general idea or thing to keep in mind about them, and describe them in bits as the story continues, having the reader rely mostly on their own imagination to fill in the gaps?

    I'm writing a small little story, and I was wondering what would be the best way to, well, describe a character in a book.

    Also, as a small tid-bit, what would you name this character, and could you, in like a paragraph, physically describe her for me? Like everything, from her face, her eyes, hair, hands, the way her body moves, everything really. I never knew how.
    Yeah. . . Have fun with that.


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  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi, welcome to the forum. Those aren't questions that we usually answer in these forums, at least not exactly as you've posed them. You need dive in, write the description and then improve on it. You won't learn how to write by asking people to write for you.
     
  3. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    Personally i use small tidbits throughout the story. I write primarily single first person narrative an example the character is looking into a mirror, examining the wrinkles on his face, wondering if he made the right choices in life or at each step of the way.
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's certainly okay to barely describe a character at all, especially in a short story. For my reading taste, the less the better.

    I think it makes sense to space out whatever description you DO give as much as possible, but it's all got to come pretty early in the story, before the reader starts imagining it herself. If she imagines one thing and then you tell her the other, it's distracting and unpleasant.
     
  5. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    I usually go with just enough to uniquely identify each character, and extra bits can be added here and there (exceptions apply). Things like hair and eyes, overall attires, and notable features are the norm.
     
  6. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    Avoid the mundane. If details aren't noteworthy, don't make a note of them. 'He wore black trousers and a white shirt'. So what, who cares?
    What catches your eye when you see the character? What's special or unique about him? 'His trousers were badly faded and the cuffs of his shirt were worn through'. Not a snappy dresser then. Is he poor or does he not care about his appearance?
    Consider the meaning of details. If a detail doesn't mean anything, you don't need to include it.
     
  7. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    I will say one thing to stray away from is releasing small tidbits throughout the story. Anything in a character's description should be in the first few pages they are introduced. I HATE when they don't describe a character but then halfway through they say something about "her black hair flowed in the wind" and the whole book I've been envisioning her with blonde hair... suddenly I'm pissed off at the book. And you have to first think of what detail you want them described in. You can either describe every aspect of them down to the angle of their nose, or leave it a complete mystery. In the book I'm currently working on, the MC is described as being a woman. That's it. She has no eye color, hair color, ethnic background, height, body stature. Its for the reader to fill in. Its really up to each individual author how much detail they put into their character descriptions and neither answer is wrong or worse than the other, just different.
     
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  8. Spencer Rose
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    Spencer Rose Member

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    I have a horrible time writing character descriptions. They tend to read like a medical transcript if I'm not careful.

    Think of how you would describe a friend to someone who has never met them. "Oh, he's kind of chubby. Dark hair, doesn't look like he knows what a hairbrush is or what it's for."

    Let your readers fill in the blanks. If there's a key feature that you want to highlight (horrible scar, walks with a limp, has an extra ear on their forehead) then by all means slip that in. But for the most part we paint our own pictures of characters as we read, and it's in all likelihood nothing like author imagined. And that's okay. It's what the characters do, not so much what they look like, that should stand out.

    My two cents, feel free to take it or leave it. Hope it helped.
     
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  9. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    You need only describe significant things in my mind. Otherwise I keep it to the bare minimum. It's fairly archaic now to bog the reader down with lengthy descriptions of characters.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know that there is a 'best' way.

    I offer a few descriptors early on and leave it at that. I don't think spreading out small tidbits is effective. I know the way I read, I form an image of a character in my mind very shortly after the character is introduced, and once that impression is there it is pretty well fixed. So the first few descriptions you give me when you introduce the character will stick. Some bit of physical description you drop two chapters later is going to be ignored and not change my mental perception of the character one bit (unless something has changed with the character to cause a change in her description).

    I know from conversations with others in writing groups and online forums that I'm not the only one for whom this is true. So I place a few pertinent details in as quickly after introducing the character as possible and leave it at that.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Ah...I see @Jak of Hearts made basically the same point I did. I agree that more than just ignoring late descriptions that don't match my mental image, they can at time be annoying or pull me out of the story, because I've been picturing the character one way for 1/4 of the story and now you've thrown in a significant feature that attempts to change that mental image (which it won't do; I just ignore it).
     

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