Friday, September 26, 2008

Characters - Description (Continued)

I'm back and so is the talk of Characters - Description. I hope you have all been enjoying the lessons. I want to remind you that you do not need to be a writer or a published author to chime in. EVERYONE has ideas, whether you realize it or not.

Let's start with today's lesson:

Character Description - Continued

Character description is not just physical characteristics, but also of how the person’s attitude is depicted. For example, author Nathaniel Hawthorne in “The Minister’s Black Veil” shows us how the character Mr. Hooper views himself when he catches a glimpse in the mirror: “At that instant, catching a glimpse of his figure in the looking glass, the black veil involved his own spirit in the horror with which it overwhelmed others. His framed shuddered, his lips grew white, he spilt the untasted wine upon the carpet, and rushed forth into the darkness.” (42). ¹

The reader can see how terrifying Mr. Hooper found himself. This character description is forceful because it is done in just a few words. Mr. Hooper’s entire attitude and the stark reality of the image he portrays to others is plain to see not only to himself, but to the reader as well.
Without description, the story is flat and uninteresting. If the reader cannot see who the character is or why he or she should care about that character, then the reader will simply walk away.

1 Hopper, Vincent. Classic American Short Stories. New York: Barron’s Educational, 1964.


Anonymous said...


I've certainly found this to be completely true. It's important to make the reader take the preverbial ride with the character; feel the things they do, see the things they see and even touch and smell the things they do in order to connect with them.

Every character should be believable and described well enough so the need to drone on and on about him or her is unnecessary. In fact, if written right, the author won't have the need to constantly tell the reader who said what.

Thank you again for your blog postings. They are quite informative.

Terri Ann Armstrong, Author/Editor

Starr Reina said...


Thank you for your comment and your active participation in the lessons. I too, obviously agree characters must be believable. And yes, you are correct, if the reader can see how each character is depicted, privy to that character, it is unnecessary to say he said, she said after each time they speak.

Word Actress said...

Going deeper with our characters is always fulfilling. I love contradictions so in my novel 'Night Surfing' my character Sosie Bend is recently separated from her fiance who left her to have a baby with a Mormon Make-Up artist. Sosie swears, I mean absolutely SWEARS to her best friend Charlotte that she is suffering from love amnesia and will not be hooking up with anyone for a very long time. But Sosie also believes in magic and that everything happens for a reason, so when she sees footprints in the sand one night, big and strong, she feels compelled to follow them. It was as if the moonlight had let loose a teardrop into the Universe, something went 'pop' and this wet, tired, handsome, funny surfer fell into her life. Sosie agrees to meet him the next night at the same spot, breaking her promise to herself to be alone for a while. I'll stop here 'cuz I don't want to give away too much and I'm exhausted. Happy Dreams bloggers and writers and all you creative spirits! Mary Kennedy Eastham, Author, 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget'

DJ said...

Love the example you used here, Starr.

Hey, I have a suggestion for a future topic. It has less to do with the creative side of our writing and more to do with the process involved in authenticating the details - if that makes sense. In one word, RESEARCH.

I have my own blog as a requirement for a library science course I'm taking, if you want to get a taste of what I've been learning.

I've been tackling a biographical drama set in the 1890's, and researching the era has been essential to creating the story. Even contemporary stories can involve research.

How does an author, for example, prepare to write about a surfer if their own personal life has no connection to surfing? (Hope word actress doesn't mind me using that as an example ;} )

Anyway, just a thought. Keep up the good work!


Starr Reina said...

Word Actress,

Your book sounds very intriguing and your character Sosie seems to be one that you want to know more about. That is a good character when you can make the reader want to know more. Thank you for your contribution.


That's a good idea for a future topic. When I do this topic of research, perhaps I'll have you on as a guest blogger. Interest you?

Everyone, let's hear some more ideas and examples. We all learn from each other at all times.

DJ said...

Thanks, Starr.

I'll consider it.

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