Writing characters

Characters are more than just the surface appearance of hair and eye color. Like real people, they have mannerisms, quirks, and style in both the physical as well as personality that should make them unique. How they cut their hair, how they talk, or even odd little habits like smoking or twitching can reveal pieces of their personality.

I’ve read books where too often the character description summed up appearance as nothing but eye and hair color, leaving everything else to my imagination. Too many characters end up confusing me, and I lose interest in the plot. There are some things a writer can do to help readers ‘see’ the characters, bringing them t life;

The human face includes more than just eyes. Some people have a feature that stands out, like a curved mouth, or bulbous nose. A hollowed cheek, or facial hair can also make them stand out.  A person’s height, weight, fitness, or other unique traits, allow readers to remember the character for their one-of-a-kind characteristic. Some offer insight in the personality such as chewed fingers. I had one character who stood shorter than most that led to her attitude of needing to be taken seriously. (That I found is too true to life).

As an exercise, you might want to look up faces in a magazine or online and spend some time practicing writing descriptions. You can pick family members, friends, or coworkers. Look at them with an objective eye and consider what makes their appearance stand out.  Jot down adjectives to describe that feature. Add thoughts on how that feature effects their lives such as being attractive might help someone get a job, or a person’s temper holding them back.

3D Render done in DazStudio
3D Render done in DazStudio

Here’s a picture to get you started. You can go to DazStudio (http://www.daz3d.com) to find more beautiful pictures. More amazing is how this picture is not a real person but a 3D textured model.

Consider the picture and think about who she is. Yes, I know; she isn’t real, but let’s pretend that she was. Describe her as a character in a story, adding personality, habits, or even a background. Make her real, give her a life. Have fun with it.

Let the graphic spark an idea to what she is thinking about, where she’s going after the picture was done. What conflicts does she face? You’ll find a well of information bubbling forth if you let it. Good luck and feel free to post here if you’d like to share.


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