The novels of Milan Kundera use little outward description of characters or their actions. Journalists and other nonfiction writers do the same. The characters in our stories, songs, poems, and essays embody our writing.
Including details such as these will deepen your character description. Verbs are the foot soldiers of action-based description. To enlarge the description, imagine that same father in a particular setting—not just in the house but also sitting in the brown recliner.
She loved the sick lamb, the Sacred Heart pierced with sharp arrows, and poor Jesus falling beneath His cross. If you use an adjective to describe a physical attribute, make sure that the phrase is not only accurate and sensory but also fresh.
When I write about my grandmother, I usually focus on her strong, jutting chin—not only because it was her most dominant feature but also because it suggests her stubbornness and determination. Who gets the lake cottage—the stepson or the daughter? Old hats fell down over her eyes. Strengthen physical descriptions by making details more specific.
It was August, high summer, but there was something definite and curiously insubstantial in the air. Select physical details carefully, choosing only those that create the strongest, most revealing impression.
What song was playing on the radio?
Techniques abound for describing a character indirectly, for instance, through the objects that fill her world. In some cases, actions, along with environmental clues, are even more important to character development than the words the characters speak.
He appears as a cardboard cutout rather than as a living, breathing character. Once your character is situated comfortably, he may relax enough to reveal his secrets.
Which one will fight hardest to keep the dog? Instead of following the Mass, she used to gaze at the azure-bordered religious drawings in her book.
If your main characters are divorcing, how will they divide their assets? When we describe a character, factual information alone is not sufficient, no matter how accurate it might be. But they do not exist until we describe them on the page.The characters in our stories, songs, poems, and essays embody our writing.
They are our words made flesh. Sometimes they even speak for us, carrying much of the burden of plot, theme, mood, idea, and emotion. JANET BURROWAY is the author of plays, poetry, essays, children’s books, and eight novels including The Buzzards, Raw Silk (runner up for the National Book Award), Opening Nights, Cutting Stone, and Bridge of oramanageability.com other publications include a collection of personal essays, Embalming Mom, in addition to a volume of poetry.
Suzannah Windsor is the founding/managing editor of oramanageability.com and Compose: A Journal of Simply Good Writing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Fire, Geist, The Writer, Sou'wester, Anderbo, Grist, Saw Palm, Best of the Sand Hill Review, and oramanageability.comah is working on a novel and a collection of short stories.Download