Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who are you?

I think character introduction is one of the things I struggle with the most. Like minor characters - the ones that pop up once or twice to move the story along and never be seen again. The character usually grinds me to a half. The character only moves the plot along so finer details about the character isn't important. Still, sometimes I pause, wondering if skimmer over details hurts the picture I'm trying to paint with words.

Then there's the name. I can never figure out names. Usually I end up googling girl names or boy names or even draw off people I know to name a character. Sometimes I stare at the computer screen, fingers poised as I try to figure out this minor character that may never appear again.

I struggle with main characters too. Especially in first person. You can't really describe the character because it comes off sounding vain. But you want people to know what the MC looks like! So you sneak the details in. I ran my fingers through my honey blond hair. Or how about: My green eyes reflected back to me through the glass asking, What are you doing? I couldn't answer them.

Minor or major characters, details are important. You want to paint a picture in the reader's mind. You want the characters to feel as real to the reader as they are to you. 

So how do you paint? What tricks and tips do you employ to describe your characters? How do you bring them to life?


  1. I use a lot of psychology. I study it and implement it in my characters' motivations and actions. I'm constantly studying people's behavior and what makes us tick as human beings.

    I don't worry about character details so much but characterize them through the things they do, how they react to the situations I put them in, how they face adversity. Not every human faces adversity the same and neither does every character. I think that sets characters apart better than hair color and clothing.

    I stay away from first person. I don't really enjoy reading it unless it's done expertly, and it's difficult to write for the reasons you mentioned. I can slow the story down a lot more in third person, and get more of the story out.

  2. I have a question. Do you picture a person you know in a role when you write a story? I mean if there is a main character John do you use someone you know for inspiration?? Enjoyed reading about the process. We all have one lol


  3. They say you should leave physical descriptions to a minimum and let your readers imagine what they will. I tend to use other characters to discuss the physical description of someone. They can joke about a character's height or new hair cut/color, etc. but I don't dwell on it too much. Even with in depth descriptions, I never imagine the characters I read to look like a movie counterpart when books are adapted.

  4. I give my characters temporary names until the very end... I'm still not sure what I'm going to call my main character (My top two choices are Salvador and Calvin, but I bet I come up with something different before the final edit). I use wikipedia to come up with names.

    I'm a believer in not detailing the appearance of your characters too much... mainly because that's not the part of the character I'm interested in... and it's not my style to sneak in the appearance...

    I like to describe a character in the first impression they make (because first impressions are based off of physical traits often)... I see no reason to point out skin color (unless it serves the plot). Here's what I do describe:

    1. Hair Color (because people have strong associations with hair color. 2. Gender (for sure)
    3. Eye Color (maybe)
    4. Height (maybe)
    5. Age (always)

    I leave the rest up to imagination.

  5. I guess I employ the sneaky route in the first person and then have someone else check them out in the third ;p I also write up about my characters on a Monday and who I could imagine playing them in a movie - I find it quite helpful and fun!

    The Arrival, Book 1 of the BirthRight Trilogy available now

  6. It depends on the character. If it's a major character, I'm going into detail certainly more... Lately I've been making use of minor characters who are there to move the plot forward, and even though I might use their POV, it's sufficient to identify them by, for example, their rank.

  7. When it comes to my characters, I see/hear their personality before I know what they look like. It's when I hear what they have to say when their image springs to life.

    Also, I love music and I need it to write. With one character, I was looking at the digital booklet of one of my musical muses and one particular photograph caught my eye and that's when I "saw" Salvatore for the first time.

  8. Aislin that's cool. I've never had that happen. I've heard music and have a scene start playing along with it but never seen a picture and thought, "WOW, that looks like my character!"

  9. oh gosh I love coming up with names, I have a million in my head I can't wait to use.
    When first describing side characters, writers can use stereotype...in the beginning."her best friend's dad spend more free time at the gym than with his family," "the cook had greasy hair and tattoos peeping from behind his shirt." "the lady had expensive heels and her hair pulled back tightly."
    IT gives the reader a quick image in their mind, so you don't have to spend a paragraph describing someone who's not that important! Great post.
    -Ellie Ann