May 2, 2021 at 11:55 am #133564
So, this is something I really struggle with and am trying to improve on, so I decided that (like most things) it can be turned into a fun and hopefully helpful game. Here’s how it works:
Post a short description of any of your characters, and critique someone who posted earlier.
Now, just to be clear, this isn’t about what the characters actually look like, this is an exercise to see how clearly and interestingly you can describe your characters.
In the best-case scenario, it’s a direct quote from your WIP. Otherwise, if you haven’t gotten that far yet (I know how it feels XD) you can just write a description you could use in your WIP.
Here’s the description of my main character and her brother, Gavril. (After like, four rewrites. There’ll probably be at least four more XD)
Gavril strode toward us with the confidence that he knew exactly where he was going and would do all in his power to get there in the most exemplary manner. His expression was laced with concern, but retained its sympathetic interest in everything and everyone, no matter how trivial.
I picked at the leather tie barely holding my fraying braid together. The sun had bleached the ends of my auburn hair until it was straw-colored and tanned my olive skin. I consistently forgot to cover my hair from the sun, so it was to be expected. I straightened my shoulders and threw my head back, tossing my braid over my shoulder. Someone once told me I always looked ready to confront the world all by myself. I had taken it as a compliment.
Tagging some people to get started:
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?May 2, 2021 at 5:53 pm #133566Joelle Stone@joelle-stone
Hey, thx for tagging me! This looks like fun… *hunts around in manuscript for a good description* *realizes all my descriptions are pretty bad* *decides critique would be nice*
Here’s the descriptions of Jistis and Jenis, two side characters from my first book. Jenis becomes a main character in the second.
Both were male, seeming to be no older than himself [the POV character, a late teenager]. The larger of the two shouldered a nearly empty pack. His left hand rested on the hilt of a sword on his left hip, and a sheathed dagger hung on his right. Unkempt brown hair dangled over his right eye in a way that obviously irritated him.
The loner pushed aside two leaves with his fingers to get a closer look at the other one. He appeared younger and more worn, at least a head shorter than his companion, and couldn’t be older than fifteen. A dusting of freckles adorned his squat nose, and his hazel-green eyes watched the ground pass by underneath his booted feet. He carried a small pack and a sack of something – sling pebbles most likely, judging from the sling dangling from his hand.
"For love is strong as death." -GodMay 2, 2021 at 8:12 pm #133572Cathy@this-is-not-an-alien
*staggers in with manic energy and way too many unfinished projects already*
Erk…man I spread my descriptions out…erhm…yeah, uh, lemmie see…
*(riffling through pages and pages of actions with indirect detail here and there nothing clumped together enough to to copy paste)*–Grrr, where’s my–*riffles through slower paced section that just might linger on details…*realizes some of my best descriptions are spread out over five pages of a very awkward first meeting of two characters* Nope not that one *AH HA!!! Finds something pretty nice here…* Ahem, describing my character Alessio from my longest-standing WIP:
Unsteady, with that weird sense of space and altered awareness from pain, Alessio glances warily along the inn before creeping down the staircase, clutching the rails for support. His thumb bumps the scar on his forehead thoughtlessly as he tugs the hood over his face. Ember eyes still in a daze focused on each step as if staring at no one would keep them from staring at him.
Dry air bashes him the moment he steps outside, curling burnt tangles of hair into his eyes again, almost concealing his scar.
Don't let the voices in your head drive you insane;only some of them can drive; most are underageMay 3, 2021 at 5:24 am #133578
Here’s my opinion:
Your description is good, but I think you’re getting slightly too bogged down in the details. (I do that too, like, always XD)
If you give your descriptions all in one place, (eye color, build, age, hair color, clothing) readers tend to forget or skip over it, because they’re more interested in what the character is doing. *Sheepishly hides older writing that dumps all the characters’ characteristics in one massive paragraph*.
When you’re introducing a character, the biggest thing to focus on is getting their essence across. Like, their general attitude.
Btw, comparing family members is an excellent way to get descriptions across. I use it all the time. Like, too much XD
Also, your POV character is watching them from some distance, and he/she is probably more focused on who they are than what they look like exactly. So, I’d split up the description. Give a short, general description first, then later, when your POV character actually meets them face-to-face, you can go into more detail. Your POV character can’t see their freckles and eye color when they’re all the way over there.
I understand how tempting it is to put in all those lovely details that are So. Cool! but if you sprinkle them in slowly, they’ll get the attention they deserve.
Here’s an example of what I mean: (I’m just going to use your description real quick, and I’ll probably get it wrong, but you see what I mean XD)
Two boys, near my age, strode (Or whatever other variation of ‘walk’ fits them best) along the path. One was almost a head taller, he was clearly the elder. He fingered the sword at his side, staring into the bushes with an annoyed scowl that told me he was more than ready to fight anything that happened to pop up. He tossed his head in irritation, trying to throw his unkempt brown hair out of his eyes without letting go of the sword or the pack he carried.
The smaller idly swung a bag of what appeared to be sling pebbles by his side, absently fiddling with a long strap of leather that must be his sling. He seemed more interested in his boots than any potential danger that might appear.
I may have gotten a lot wrong, but you can see what I mean XD I got the impression that the older one is more of a leader, and he’s more down-to-earth, and that the younger is a bit dreamier.
A way to keep the scene moving and give a description of the characters at the same time is to describe their expressions, posture, and actions. I’ve found this can give you an instant impression of the character’s personalities.
Hope this helped!
*(riffling through pages and pages of actions with indirect detail here and there nothing clumped together enough to to copy paste)*
That’s a totally valid way to do it! I use that for the smaller details, though I do try to give a quick description of characters when you ‘meet’ them.
That’s an excellent description! I love how you use his actions to incorporate the description. It carries a lot of character, and Alessio sounds like an interesting character! I wonder what happened to him…
I get the impression that he’s kind of insecure/shy, and that he’s been through some stuff XD
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?May 3, 2021 at 12:55 pm #133587Joelle Stone@joelle-stone
*decides to run any and every description past you from now on*
Wow, that is so much better, thank you!! 😀
"For love is strong as death." -GodMay 3, 2021 at 3:34 pm #133594
@rose-colored-fancy This is so awesome! I’m gonna hop on shortly.
I don’t usually do that much description of my characters…I like to leave a lot of it to the imagination, but I’ll see what I can come up with.
Not all those who wander are lost.May 3, 2021 at 3:42 pm #133595
This is the introduction I give for my MC, Thane, from the POV of Mr. Burncut, a tavern owner.😁 I’ll probably revamp it in the future, but here it is…
As Mr. Burncut crossed the room, someone caught his eye. A figure was sitting alone in the far corner, head lowered, and dirty leather boots sticking out from underneath a thick dark cloak. Something about the way the traveler’s black eyes glinted as he watched the room made Mr. Burncut uncomfortable.
Not all those who wander are lost.May 5, 2021 at 12:00 pm #133691May 6, 2021 at 9:12 pm #133769Erynne@erynne
*Jumps in way too late*
Hey Rose! Wonderful idea! Thank you so much for tagging me!
Let me see…I only have a million and one descriptions that need to be looked over.
This short paragraph is the description of my pirates. I do put other details in throughout the few chapters that they are in, but this is the best piece of the story that describes them. Also, don’t laugh too hard. I wrote it back when I was still new to writing XD
As he cautiously walked down the hall, Pete came as well going the opposite direction. He was surely the most intimidating pirate on board. He was taller and larger than Blaise and had sharp, jet black hair. He had a large nose and a large chin, along with small, dark eyes. The other pirates looked nowhere near as petrifying as Pete did. Olin was a little bit taller than Julian. He had grey hair and a matching, thick mustache. Blaise was tall with a bald head. And Captain Langdon was tall and thin, with a clean-shaven face.
Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you ever know who would love the person you hide.May 8, 2021 at 4:08 pm #133790
Hi Erynne! Thanks for joining!
Also, don’t laugh too hard. I wrote it back when I was still new to writing XD
No worries! You can probably do better now, but it actually isn’t that bad!
I really like it, but I think you can describe it a little broader and more concisely, and it would be cool if you connected their appearances to their personalities!
Here’s an example:
Pete was surely the most intimidating pirate on board. Everything about him was big, except his small, dark eyes, which peered at the world maliciously. The others weren’t as petrifying. Olin had gray hair and a thick mustache which made him look more like a grandfather than a pirate.
I probably got that horribly wrong, but you see what I mean XD
Here’s another excerpt where I’m describing Sahar in a fancy/formal dress, so I’m describing her and the clothing at the same time. I’m pretty sure it isn’t working and I can’t get perspective on it, so I’m asking y’all to mercilessly shred it to pieces.
Sahar raised one foot in an improvised dance step, spinning so the white ruffles of the underskirt peeped out beneath her violet dress. The yellow flowers twisted against the purple fabric. The bright colors complimented her deep brown skin.
Her jingling bangles, anklets, and earrings caught the light of the oil lamp. According to Sahar, there was no such thing as too much jewelry. It suited her, but I wore only my kolye, the forehead chain indicating my rank. Sahar wore hers too, the deep purple of the amethyst showing she was an Orme. (One of the tribes)
Her inky curls bounced around her shoulders as she spun to a stop. A gleaming knife thudded to the sand next to her bare feet.
Don’t ask why she’s carrying a knife to a formal event XD
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?May 10, 2021 at 12:23 pm #133815Erynne@erynne
Thank you so much!! That will definitely make it much better.
Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you ever know who would love the person you hide.May 10, 2021 at 2:24 pm #133816
Sahar raised one foot in an improvised dance step, spinning so the white ruffles of the underskirt peeped out beneath her violet dress. The yellow flowers twisted against the purple fabric. The bright colors complimented her deep brown skin. Her jingling bangles, anklets, and earrings caught the light of the oil lamp. According to Sahar, there was no such thing as too much jewelry. It suited her, but I wore only my kolye, the forehead chain indicating my rank. Sahar wore hers too, the deep purple of the amethyst showing she was an Orme. (One of the tribes) Her inky curls bounced around her shoulders as she spun to a stop. A gleaming knife thudded to the sand next to her bare feet.
I like it. I think the biggest thing might be to focus on exactly what you want your reader to notice. For example, you could probably take out the part about the white underskirt and replace it by calling the violet dress “layered.” You also might be able to combine the sentence about jewelry and her skin color by making them contrast each-other…”Jewellery on her ankles and wrists flashed in the firelight, gold against her brown skin.” Or something like that.😆 I think one of the easiest ways to contrast is to use the word like…”Moving like the wind,” or “Purple like a the sky at dusk.”
Her inky curls bounced around her shoulders as she spun to a stop. A gleaming knife thudded to the sand next to her bare feet.
I like this part (above) the best, because it has personality to it, and because it shows what it looked like. You give me little hints (inky, bounced, gleaming, etc.) that contrast and bring to mind other things I have seen. Inky brings to mind something silky, black, and reflective to the light around it. And bounced tells me how the hair moved…kind of a playful swishing movement.
One other suggestion would be to cut out the word the at the beginning of sentences. For example, “The yellow flowers twisted…” might sound better as just, “Yellow flowers twisted…”
So…I tore that apart.😝 I hope it wasn’t too much.
I really like this thread, and can hardly wait to post more of my stuff for “shredding”.😊
Not all those who wander are lost.May 10, 2021 at 2:36 pm #133817
Thank you so much! That was immensely helpful and I’m definitely going to use that!
I really like this thread, and can hardly wait to post more of my stuff for “shredding”.
I’m glad it’s helping you and I can’t wait to see more of your writing!
Awesome! Glad I could help!
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?May 10, 2021 at 9:18 pm #133831ScoutFinch190@scoutfinch190
I think I’d like to jump in… sorry if I should’ve asked first. I don’t see anything I can critique.
In this moment, the main character (Jade) has woken up in the monster’s (Fabian) hut. He is looking around and after trying to get his bearings, he is studying the monster he distrusts while the monster is focused on cleaning Jade’s space helmet. (do you need more context for the description?). Also, HSI stands for Human Sciences Institute or something like that. I don’t remember exactly.
What was he doing here? Waiting to become the thrid’s dinner? Jade took a better look at the monster, it was now wearing a pair of well-fitting pants, its broad chest exposed to reveal the muscle that rippled under its scales. He frowned; and examined the hand-like claws as they worked, their length was proportionate to the lizard, strong and thick skinned but obviously dexterous. An anthropomorph? No brainer HSI wanted the body back along with whatever Jade had to steal. This was anything but common.
We crazy people are the normal ones.May 10, 2021 at 9:32 pm #133832ScoutFinch190@scoutfinch190
And here’s a description from later in this scene:
The monster squatted beside him, “Settle down, I w-on’t…” it shut its eyes and mouthed the next word before forcing it to its throat, “B-ite. I know I have the face uf… of a thrid.”
Jade looked up at the creature. The eyes as they peered down the long muzzle were large and round, the irises chemical blue and circular pupils instead of the gash-like slits its kind had. He leaned away, the expression in those eyes was a plea. It has to do with his lack of facial muscles.
We crazy people are the normal ones.
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