5 Tips for Describing Characters
1 Don’t List
A bullet list of words that describe your characters can become very boring very quickly to your readers. For example, he had dark hair, blue eyes, a chiselled jaw, thin pink lips, thick muscular arms and a toned body might be dull for a reader to see over and over again. It’s essentially a list, and lists remind readers of chores and other things they should be doing instead of reading another page of your book.
2 Be Picky
Regarding the above tip, it is better to pick out a few of your characters most striking or prominent features. For example, perhaps a character has a distinct scar on her face, or maybe she has grey hair although she’s only 22. Those things are interesting and may compel a reader onward.
3 Be Detailed
Although descriptions ideally shouldn’t be handed to readers in long lists, the parts of your character you do choose to describe should be described in detail. For example, if your character is a middleaged man with dark hair, perhaps that hair may be peppered here and there with strands of grey. Or maybe, his tanned skin has become dark and leathery from a life spent working hard out in the sun. Details are what help to ground a character in reality, without them your characters may come off a little flat.
Facial expressions can help a reader get a grasp on what your character looks like and who they are. Does your character scowl a lot? Do they have lines around their mouth from a lifetime of laughter? Do they have pale skin from being kept indoors for their entire childhood?
There is also the somewhat controversial advice that suggests one shouldn’t describe their characters at all. Some writers posit that the readers’ imaginations are the only thing needed to visualise the people of one’s story world, and many writers lean fully into this philosophy. Others fall somewhere between describing every detail and giving no character descriptions at all, only giving the reader a very basic descriptive outline, which allows them to fill in the rest of the information themselves.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my words!
Until next time,
© 2020 GLT