3/17/10

Eye Witness Report

There's a crime.  You're the only eye witness.  
What did the perpetrator look like?
Male or female?
Blonde or brunette?
Race?
Tall or short?
Skinny or fat?
Any distinguishing remarks?  Tattoos? Birthmarks?


All questions the police will ask you but answers you should never give in a description of your character.  It's hard to describe your characters without wanting to say, "Her long blonde hair glistened in the sun."
Yes, thank you for TELLING me what she looks like.  But show me...


There are so many more ways to describe someone that not only would you be able to give an eye witness report but there will be "tells" into their personality within that description.  This is something I am currently working on myself.  For instance, I'll describe someone, think about what you learn about them.
The flowery way she spoke grated on my nerves, not to mention the bad dye jobs the other girls tortured their hair with just to be a carbon copy.
You learn that the girl is "girly" from her flowery voice.  You might also assume she's popular because every wants to look like her.  But lastly, you can guess she has blond hair, since dying hair implies lightening it. (And doesn't everyone want to be a blonde? I do.)  I could have just TOLD you "She's a feminine girl that is popular with blond hair."  How boring.   Or try this one: 
She told all the classic jokes about girls with her hair color, but she winced when everyone actually found them funny.
Here, popular hair color jokes you can guess might mean dumb blond jokes.  The girl is blond, since the jokes about her own hair color.  She winces when people laugh at them though.  So it implies that she tells the jokes to fit in, even though she doesn't agree with them.  Maybe she's smart and those dumb blonde jokes just add to falsities of what she is NOT.


So okay, we call her blond but how about we add something to it like Becca Fitzpatrick from Hush, Hush.
"...minky blond and a few pounds over curvy."
Sometimes I like it when a person is compared to something.  In Hush, Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick describes her MC Nora:
"And I'm all legs, like a bar stool."
We can all do an eye witness report.  But when you're describing your characters, try to include some insight to their personality or give me a visual through comparison.  How do jack up your characters?


Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!  Hope your blog is wearing green.
PS.  Usually this is my unplugged week but I'll be in a bikini the last week of March, so I'm saving my unplugged for that week.  (bikini is my way of saying I'll be on a vacation in a sunny spot.  Sunnier than my area.)

4 comments :

  1. Excellent tips! Descriptions are something I struggle with, so I'll be adding these suggestions to my file.

    Happy St. Patty's Day to you also. Love the green.

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  2. Thanks for you comment DL, glad they helped. But I have to confess, this post was inspired by another blog. Have you ever been to Kidlit.com? Mary is an agent who give great advice to writers. Practical advice that really helps me. She does this contest where you can submit your first five. She takes her favorites and analyzes why, breaks it down with what she learned about the character in very few words.

    You should check it out.

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  3. Thanks for these tips! I really like using dialogue to demonstrate a character.

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  4. Love, love, love your photo today! Though I'd like to convict the little bugger of stealing flower bulbs and chewing through phone lines. That's what the fluff-tail devils do in my area.

    Great tips for showing instead of telling. I also use dialogue, like Betty, to show certain traits (smartness, regionalisms, interests). You can also show a lot by how a character compares herself to others in her internal monologue. For example, my MC at one point thinks "I'm gonna look like a gypsy camp reject compared to her."

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