Monthly Archives: September 2020

Character Descriptions

By Terry C. Misfeldt

How you craft descriptions of your characters is an important element in gaining and maintaining reader interest in your story. Character descriptions vary from quick sketches to detailed revelations that can include emotional states.

An example of a quick sketch would be describing a female character wearing a sleeveless top with colorful tattoo sleeves from shoulder to wrist on both arms. Main character? Perhaps, but more appropriate for a passing stranger in some scene.

The more detailed character description might be something like this: “The plump four-year-old towhead with sparkling blue eyes and out-turned feet plodded barefoot through the mud with his tossled hair clinging to the back of his sweaty neck. His bleeding hand was wrapped in his blood-soaked t-shirt that he held tight to his chest with his belly hanging over the waistband of his too-tight shorts.”

The point of the examples is writers need to create believable characters with precise descriptions. The scene in the second example is used more to describe what might be going on in the towhead’s brief existence, but you learn he is blond with blue eyes and is overweight for a 4-year-old.

Beware: You can divulge too much information about a character in a single description or scenario. This may force you to repeat traits or descriptions at other points in your story that could potentially conflict with your original picture of them.

Suggestion: Identify your characters and write character descriptions on each of them before you dig too deeply into writing the story. This enables you to sprinkle some of their traits throughout the story at appropriate times rather than all at once.

Observe people who may model the type of character you want to create. Take notes about how they move, what they wear, and, of course, what they look like. Writers call it research.

Writing Tools

By Terry C. Misfeldt

The most important tool available to you as a writer is your brain! Chief among writing tools: You ability to think and create. Think about what you are trying to say. When you know what message you want to convey, there are many writing tools at your disposal.

Research can be a valuable writing tool. Where do you find out about personalities so you can determine what your characters’ flaws and attributes are? Psychology textbooks are one source. Personality profile programs are another. Maps, the Internet, and countless other sources of information can assist your research quest. Chambers of commerce in many communities can provide you with demographic information.

Reading is often overlooked as a writing tool, but one that can prove powerful. Read the works of other writers in the genre you are working on. How do they create scenes? Write down the ideas that relate to your story. How do they create conflict between characters? Again, make some notes. How do they create dialogue? Emulate them if you believe it is appropriate for your work.

Outlining & Plotting are writing tools that are somewhat synonymous. When you outline your story from beginning to conclusion, you have a tool that enables you to look at the story impartially. If you believe a chapter should be moved forward or back, the outline suggests where it may fit better. Plotting, likewise, enables you to plot the course of your story and inject conflict where you may not thought of adding it.

Another writing tool we take for granted: Your computer. Most computer programs help edit what you write and find alternative words if you need a substitute. Things I have found most valuable about my laptop are the keyboard I have attached that enables me to type more efficiently, the storage capacity, the ease of editing, and the speed it enables me to write with. My brain works much faster than my fingers can type, but the more I practice, the closer those two speeds come together.