Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hi, I'm Art!

Character introduction is...not something I do well. My tendency is to just open the story right in a character's head and let the reader deal with it. I used to believe a loving, detailed description of the hero/heroine was totally necessary. And then I did a writing exercise with some friends.

We chose characters at random from books on the library shelf. All genres. Famous authors and obscure writers. Here's the way it worked. Someone read the description. Everyone wrote down a well-known personality they believed would be the best physical portrayal for the character.

Out of ten character descriptions, there were no duplicated answers. Based on the writer's descriptions, everyone still had a different mental picture of each character. You might ask, "What does that mean?"

I think it might mean we don't need to get extremely involved in describing our characters unless that description has an important bearing on the story. Basics such as size, gender, race, and maybe hair/eye color might do it.

For instance--I'm currently working on a story where one character, Poussé, has very dark brown skin. All the other characters in the story are blue. How she adapts to living in the land of the blue people is an important aspect of the story. How she deals with it when she turns blue is another important point.

On the other hand, I don't need to spend paragraphs describing clothing, hair styles or what kind of weapon she carries into the valley. Within the first page, all of those issues become irrelevant when she's captured. Over the course of the story as she slowly accepts the valley culture, we see the other characters through her eyes. Blue,yes, but individuals.



  1. Yup, everyone sees a hero or heroine differently! :)

  2. Good point. I give basic details but usually as part of the ongoing dialogue or setting establishment. Gone are the days of pph after pph of extended details about exact highlights and lowlights of someone's hair.

  3. Absolutely agreed! Though I like little hints now and then. ;-)

  4. Yes, I agree. I like to leave the reader to fill in those little details - let their imagination run!

  5. I don't ever give much of a description because I've read things and been disappointed when my mental image didn't match the author's.

  6. Interesting that everyone came up with different character descriptions isn't it.