Friday, September 19, 2008

Characters - Description (Continued)

It's Friday again! The days seem to fly by. Fridays are great though, aren't they? With them comes the weekends AND my blogging lessons. Here's number 4. I can't wait to see your comments.

Characters - Description (Continued)

A reader wants to know what the character looks and acts like – let them visualize the character in more than just height and weight. Author Anne Lamott suggests the creation of a well-rounded individual – “how they stand…what happens in their faces and to their posture when they are thinking, or bored, or afraid.” (45).¹ Lamott asks: “…can you see what your people look like…” (46)?² If you can’t see them, what makes you think your readers will?

1, 2 Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird. New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.

Okay, what can you show me?

Starr Reina


Surfwahine said...

Hi Starr!
Love the Blog! Even though I don't write it is very interesting to see how you develop characters! I told Philip to tell Phil that I am reading your blog. I actually have a blog on "Blogger" also. I am at I mostly post pictures of Blaise and what our family is doing. Check in with me sometime. I also have a work blog at with fire department related pics. Keep up the Great work. I read your short story and liked it!!! That was Cool.
I'll be checking back soon!
~ Mo :)

DJ said...

This skill is of major importance to those writers in the world of screenwriting. "Show, don't tell," is the mantra, because we have to convey everything through what the audience sees and what the characters ("don't") say...

-Valerie's car pulls beside her rundown trailer. The car wheezes. The tailpipe falls off. Valerie hurries to reach the trailer.

The door opens. She back peddles. JOE (22), her exhusband. stares her into a stutter.

VALERIE- "I-I had car trouble, and -and-"

Joe swigs from his beer. He lets her sweat.

VALERIE- "Nick helped... I guess it's time to get a new car-"

JOE- "With whose money?"

VALERIE- "Uhm... Thank you! For watching Junior-"

JOE- "That's it? I waste my whole day watching the kid, and all you say is thanks?"


JOE- "And then you're late-"

VALERIE- "The car-"

JOE- "You never heard of a god damned phone? How am I gonna find a job if I'm coverin' for you?

VALERIE- "I'm sorry."

JOE- "Yeah, you are sorry."

Hopefully, I was successful in conveying what kind of people Valerie and Joe are without saying it directly. The dialogue conveys a lot, but hopefully the simple narrative conveys a lot too.

Starr Reina said...


Thanks for your comment. It's nice to hear from you. Keep checking back to see other posts and comments.

Starr Reina

Starr Reina said...


Yes, great description. It portrays your characters as parents; the father as one who really doesn't care about the child (calls it the "kid") and the mother who is obviously frightened by ex-husband because she's late. The father appears to be a dead beat. Good job!


Word Actress said...

I love the way my characters come together. It's been so much fun writing my first novel, 'Night Surfing - A Story of Love & Wonder in the Waves of Malibu' You get to spend so much more time with novel characters than you do in a short story. I love fleshing out all the little nuances that make them come alive. As I'm sitting here in my office, I can look over at my storyboard and see the pictures of my three main characters Sosie,Bend, Jagger and Charlotte, pictures I clipped out of magazines that seem to embrace the characters as I see them in my head. I always try to write a back story for all my characters. As one example, here's what I wrote in my fragment file about Sosie:: loves rollercoasters/hates olives. For me, it's the silly stuff like that that always makes the story that much richer for me. Have fun with your characters. Their creation all belongs to us, the writers, how exciting is that? Mary Kennedy Eastham, Author, 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget'

Starr Reina said...

Word Actress,

Thank you for your comments. They are dead on, as far as I'm concerned. Yes, in a novel you have much more freedom to create characters that come alive than a short story. However, the characters in a short story can be just as poignanty expressed if done the right way. I'm sure you already know this.

There will be more coming up on Character Descriptions. I can't wait to hear your comments.

Blog Gadget