1. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Contributor Contributor

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    Giving personality to a character

    Discussion in 'Descriptive Development' started by Cdn Writer, Apr 28, 2022.

    I have a short story in the workshop, "Opportunity Knocks" which is a crime/thriller. The main character in the short story, Anna, is a kidnapper. She successfully kidnaps a child from a car crash.

    I'm trying to develop the detective character that will show up a bit more. This detective is going to get the call to investigate a car crash months after it has happened and I want him to be a bit of a slob so I am thinking:

    His spotted tie, DRENCHED in gravy from the poutine dishes he ate at his desk while working the phones.

    Does "drenched" work?

    He doesn't dip the tie into the gravy or anything, but he wears the same tie everyday, doesn't wash it, and he has the poutine dish every other day for breakfast/lunch/dinner depending on his shift.

    Poutine is french fries with cheese curds that is smothered in gravy. It's delicious but very messy....

    My other thought would be to skip the tie entirely and have drips of gravy dot the collar/lapels of his suit.

    I want him to give the impression of a slob so that people don't take him seriously and having him wearing cheap suits off the rack that he doesn't take care of is one way I am trying to show that aspect of his personality.


    His chair creaks as he shifts position and hangs up the phone.


    He's going to be on the portly side due a steady diet of junk food and lack of exercise. I am trying to show that the chair creaks due to his weight and size.

    Thoughts? Does what I am going for come through in my description?
     
  2. Iceni

    Iceni New Member

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    Would something like 'encrusted' work? Implies it is old dried-up food? Maybe he doesn't wear a tie if he is a slob, and has his top buttons undone, etc? Food stains on a jacket like you imply. Creased nylon suit, a too-tight shirt, not properly tucked in that gapes showing a bit of flesh? Unpolished shoes. Grubby fingernails? Beard with food in it? Does he get up slowly from his chair with heavy breathing? Does he drink and has a red face with broken veins? Fast food smell about him?
     
  3. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Drenched is too much, unless it's only one time and he accidentally dipped the tie in his food and didn't get a chance to clean it or change it yet. Spotted or dotted works better, or just stained. Maybe crusted or scabbed with old food stains.

    Drenched also sounds like it's still wet, not dried as I think you want.

    Have you read some of the hardboiled detective stories, the ones that served as inspiration for the Noir movies of the 40's? Chandler, Hemingway, Spillanne, that sort of stuff? Those guys were really good at getting across character with just a few words.

    Check this page: Hardboiled Detective stories @ Archive.org
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2022
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  4. Joe_Hall

    Joe_Hall I drink Scotch and I write things

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    I'll agree with the others that drenched is too much unless he freshly did it.

    Maybe something like this would get your message across:
    His tie, with its crooked Windsor knot and stains from frequent bastings of gravy, hung slavishly to the left side of his portly neck.
     
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  5. Alcove Audio

    Alcove Audio Senior Member

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    I don't think that a detective would be a slob. Rather, he would be somewhat indifferent to his appearance and other aspects of his life, more of the 'absent minded professor' type. He doesn't iron/fold/hang up his shirts, so they are always wrinkled; he never bothers to get his suits cleaned - dirt, grime and even a spot of blood or two from previous cases. He never makes his bed, clothing is tossed in a corner, there are piles of unwashed dishes in the sink and takeout containers overflow the garbage can. Is he a drinker? Add beer and liquor bottles. The floor of his perpetually unwashed car is covered with junk food wrappers, the muffler needs work and half the warning lights on the dash are lit.

    -------

    Ancient shock absorbers groaned when Dick eased his bulk into the seat of the car with an annoyed grunt. Another one, he thought. Jabbing the key into the ignition he noticed a spot on the sleeve of his wrinkled suit. He absently scraped at it with a dirty fingernail, ignoring other spots on his cuffs. He cursed under his breath when the car protested a few times before roaring into unmuffled life. Junk food wrappers swirled about the interior as he sped down the road, the cool air from the open windows easing his headache....

    -------

    Pretty poor, I know, but you get the idea.
     
  6. Joe_Hall

    Joe_Hall I drink Scotch and I write things

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    @Alcove Audio Probably something like this from The Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

    An anomaly which often struck me in the character of my friend Sherlock Holmes was that, although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind, and although also he affected a certain quiet primness of dress, he was none the less in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction. Not that I am in the least conventional in that respect myself. The rough-and-tumble work in Afghanistan, coming on the top of a natural Bohemianism of disposition, has made me rather more lax than befits a medical man. But with me there is a limit, and when I find a man who keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece, then I begin to give myself virtuous airs. I have always held, too, that pistol practice should be distinctly an open-air pastime; and when Holmes, in one of his queer humors, would sit in an arm-chair with his hairtrigger and a hundred Boxer cartridges, and proceed to adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic V. R. done in bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the atmosphere nor the appearance of our room was improved by it.
     
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  7. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Interesting. I didn't even realize Holmes was so untidy. I once downloaded a book containing just about all the stories, but never read more than part of the first one. I suppose he was the prototype for all the untidy/unkempt private eyes that followed, whose minds focused on other things and not at all on social niceties and the like.

    Similar to the Jeff Goldblum character in The Fly (based on Einstein), with a closet full of seven identical suits and pairs of shoes, so he doesn't have to devote any thought to unimportant things like dressing, he can just get right to the unraveling of the secrets of the universe.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2022
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  8. Joe_Hall

    Joe_Hall I drink Scotch and I write things

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    If you read all his works the Holmes character basically went on maniac sprees during cases, even refusing food as he felt it wasted energy on digestion when he needed it for thinking. When the cases were over he would go into lethargy and hardly move...just laying about playing his violin and shooting morphine...and cleaning his quarters was not a high priority, to the annoyance of Watson.
     
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  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Yeah, that makes sense, because fasting does divert the energy normally used for digestion to your mind. Sometime on the third day of not eating your body switches from running on glucose (sugar) to ketones, which come from fat, and it can metabolize body fat efficiently. The brain loves ketones!

    Plus it includes the idea that he's totally single-minded when on a case, like some of us are when we're on to a good story idea or creative project. You forget to eat, don't notice hunger, or anything else. You just focus intensely on the project.

    All that can come from the fact that a detective doesn't care about grooming, cleanliness or food while engrossed in a case. Though you need to be sure to present him that way too. By themselves those traits don't necessarily say that. You'd need to show him being obsessive and forgetting things that would normally be important, and that when he's not on a case he's totally different.
     
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  10. Alcove Audio

    Alcove Audio Senior Member

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    I was definitely like that in my studio when I was working on the audio post for a film or a piece of music. However, the rest of my life was (and still is) extremely disciplined. When I finished for the day (well, night) I would do a thorough clean-up and make my notes. As I got older I had to start scheduling breaks to relieve my arthritis and my back issues (alarm/timer), as well as eating and forcing myself to get rest. For me, personally, having my "real" life rigidly organized allows me to be wild and crazy in my creative life because there are no distractions.
     
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  11. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Personally I'm much more Holmesian. I always said it doesn't matter what the rest of the studio or house looks like, it's only what's right there in front of me, be it a drawing, painting, or story. My mind is focused down onto that little rectangle and everything else drops out. No viloin for me though (I did plink around a little on a few guitars, but never got any good). And no cocaine. I do however have 2 shots of Jameson in my coffee, sweetened with a good dollop of whipped cream and some stevia. It's my home-made (and keto) Baileys.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2022
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  12. Hummingbird Alley

    Hummingbird Alley Member

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    Are you going for funny or bumbling? The description really draws us a picture of the character, but I think you need to set the reader up for the kind of story it might be. Given the right atmosphere, this guy would be very likable and a great underdog detective.
     
  13. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    I agree with others that drenched doesn't work. I would probably use "spotted" or something.
     
  14. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    "...his poutine encrusted/crusted tie..." for a shorter version. The implication of crusty here is pieces of dried food falling from the spot, or more recent pastings have adhered the loosening ones, ad nausea, etcetera.
     
  15. JSBernstein

    JSBernstein New Member

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    Since you posted the question, I believe you know it doesn't work.

    For me, it draws too much attention.

    Would you feel like you were sacrificing too much by writing 'soiled' instead?
     
  16. w. bogart

    w. bogart Member

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  17. Tristan's Opa

    Tristan's Opa Senior Member

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    perhaps add a dusting of fresh powered donut sugar to highling the crusted trail of gravey....
     

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