Princess and I are working on NaNoWriMo, and continuing to figure out how to do NaNoWriMo in homeschool. Right now, I’m working on characterization. In particular how to describe characters. This all came about because I was rereading what I’d written so far and I realized on one page I described the character as blonde and later in the chapter I said she had brown hair. It’s a small detail, but it’s important.
(I’m sure I’ll stick some affiliate links in here, so you’ve been duly warned)
Let’s talk about describing characters
The other day, I was reading an article on how to describe characters. Yes, I read weird things. I also watch weird things. I’m currently watching a video on Luxembourg.
They pointed out, you need to find a phrase you use frequently to describe your characters. Think about it, if I said “Severus Snape,” what idea pops into your head?
Dark greasy hair, maybe a sharp beak nose?
Or Harry Potter?
Messy dark hair and glasses?
Find something to easily describe your character. Sometimes that description can also reveal a character trait.
For all three characters in Harry Potter I mentioned, all of them have messy hair in some way or another. It reveals a bit about them because none of them particularly care about their appearance.
You even see a scene later in the series where Harry deliberately messed up his hair to make himself look like he’d just gotten off his broom just like his father did. It’s one of the few times Harry deliberately notices his looks and they use it to parallel character traits between Harry and his father.
This is a short story I wrote for a gaming campaign to introduce characters. Let me share with you three short paragraphs that describe the same character:
“Kate is across the hall. Probably nursing your sons,” Duncan answered wryly as he sprawled in a chair across from the king. His dark clothes were well made, and he brushed them into place as he put his feet up on the king’s coffee table. “Now, about your sons.”
The captain glanced up at the knock and straightened as he recognized Duncan Wellwood. The king trusted this minor noble implicitly, and rumor had it, he operated a network of informants. He subconsciously straightened his uniform as he looked at Duncan’s well pressed tailored outfit, “What can I do for you sir?”
Duncan leaned against the courtyard wall watching the paladins train. His mind flashed back to younger days as Liam, the youngest son of the king would spar with Wilbur, the gentle giant towering over the tall prince. Shaking his head, Duncan flicked a spot of dust off his silk shirt. As the paladins finished training, Duncan straightened his waistcoat and strode to a young woman inspecting her blade. “You parried that last strike well.”
After reading the short story, my son who was playing Duncan knew his character enjoyed sneaking up on people and was fastidious in his clothes.
Now, I’m not a great author, but I’m working on it, and it tells me I’m on the right track if he picked that up from the five page story.
Another take on how to describe the character
Like I said, I watch strange videos, and since this has been of interest to me, I’ve been watching a lot of videos recently, and her video on how to describe a character has good points.
For those who don’t care to watch the entire six-minute video:
- Incorporate it into the scene, not a description dump
- Only describe what they need to follow the events
- Use description to further character description
The tools we’re using for character description
After I discovered I had described one of my characters wrong, I realized I needed to create better character sketches. So, I grabbed some of my history notes templates and copied it into a brand new word document.
I copied and pasted it a whole bunch so I had plenty of space for adding in my characters. After I’d done that I added in some areas for locations because describing locations is just as important as describing characters. They too contribute to the feel of a story.
As I think up characters I search through google for inspiration images. I think of what I want the character to look like and who they are. For instance, the main character of the book I’m writing is a young human paladin. If you play World of Warcraft, think about Anduin when he first becomes king. That’s actually the image I printed off, as my inspiration image.
Then as I have time I draw pictures to extrapolate from there.
Once I have it firmly in my head, then I start writing. Having an image can really help with writing character descriptions.
To help all of you in your NaNoWriMo, or just general writing, I’ve put the pages I created for Princess and I to use on my subscriber page down in the junior high/high school area.
I’m pretty sure as I work through this month, I’ll probably update that and add more to it. I’m sure I’ll discover I’ll need more tools than just a how-to describe characters, but something else.