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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fresh Ways To Describe Characters

The subject recently came up of how difficult it sometimes is to find fresh ways to describe your characters. How many ways can you describe blonde hair, or a short beard, someone who is tall, or short?

It is difficult at times. But not impossible. I think the main reason we often struggle with this is not that "we've seen it all before" but because we are so rushed that it short circuits our creativity. I know it does mine. I try to find writing time in the morning but sometimes I'll be panicking inside thinking "Oh no! I only have 20 minutes before I have to leave to go do A, B, and C." I'm so busy being stressed about my to-do's that well-deep creativity is squashed. Just like we can't be distracted and have genuine heart-felt time with the Lord, we also need concentration time for our writing.

It is also good to make your description do double duty---both offer a bit of physical description and tell something about your character at the same time.

Here's an example. I usually end up re-reading Zane Grey's Forlorn River once a year or so, and am in the process of doing that now.

In a scene in this book, one man describes another man this way:

"that pasty-faced potato-head on a whip handle!"

ROTFL!!! There is absolutely no doubt in the reader's mind either about the physical image of this man nor the speaker's opinion of him. And in just a handful of words.

It makes me smile so much when I read it, I can't help but imagine that Mr. Grey smiled as he wrote it. 8-)

So we can find fresh ways to describe our characters, and do double duty too.

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