By Terry C. Misfeldt
Writers often overlook an important aspect of developing their characters. Playwrights have a certain description of their actors in mind when they craft their play. One might have a limp or be blind in one eye and the people who portray those characters may not be lame or blind but they can imitate those characteristics.
In a novel, however, authors forget to describe how their protagonist or antagonists walk. An individual I remember distinctly from my hometown had a distinctive hop step with one leg that was unforgettable. Writers can create an interesting experience for their readers in describing how their characters walk.
Someone who has been overweight most of their lives might have a bow-legged waddle to help their bear the excess weight. Likewise, if the character has lost most of that weight, they may still exhibit a modified waddle when they walk.
If you observe someone who walks a lot, they often have muscular but skinny legs and stride with an air of confidence. Maybe they have a bounce in their step or seem to be someone who could burst into a run at any moment.
Does the character have a bad knee? Weak ankle? Do they favor one leg over the other? Do they shuffle their feet? Walk erect or slumped over? Does someone wearing high heels seem comfortable walking in them, or awkward?
There are numerous variables in describing how a character walks. A hunter may use stealthy techniques to move through the woods. Stalking steps might also describe a predatory human. Short, sure steps may be used by an individual trying to navigate icy conditions. Tip toeing through the house to avoid detection when coming home late is another way of describing a teenager or cheating spouse.
Suggestion: Pay attention to how people you meet or see in your daily activities walk. Make some notes and adapt those mannerisms to your characters.