Monday, October 28, 2013

Character Foundations: Descriptions

So last week we talked about character sketching. Hopefully by now you've had a chance to practice building your characters based off that information. If you haven't, I would take a second look.

The thing about foundations is that they are the basis and blueprints for the entire project going forward. Having a recognizable character is imperative, otherwise your story will be populated by subtly varying clones. No one wants that.

After sketching a character we move on to the general character description. There are two philosophies to proceed with concerning the character description. I will touch on both of them.

Show me...

Authors create successful and memorable characters for their books all the time, but why are they successful? Well, we know that their silhouette is memorable; each character we experience is unique and different. What about their description though? A good description focuses on how a personality relates to visual appearance. The Scottish, ginger-esque, appearance has personal associations with a feisty demeanor. Note that these are expectations based off of stereotypes. Occasionally, however, we must rely on these expectations. Not all dark, brooding characters have black or brunette hair, but we sort of expect them to. How these visual details, like sunken eyes, or a cleft chin integrate themselves in with the personalities of your characters is important, and at least worth considering.

Tell me...

Now there are some authors (myself included) that don't describe characters in their book. What they do is tell you about the character and allow the reader to create an image of a character in their minds that fits what they are reading. This is by no means an "easier" way to building characters. It takes years of experience or a special knack to describe characters this way. Probable character traits can be determined either through how the character reacts to situations or what they say. A character that skirts responsibility and is lethargic could he construed as lazy, or fat. Likewise, a character could be ambitious, vocally outspoken, and industrious. I could imagine these characters having a powerful physical presence, or their sleeves rolled up. Either way, its up to you, and both models are fitting.

I'm kind of in a rush this morning, but later this afternoon I will write descriptions to help aid you in understanding either of these philosophies. I hope this was helpful!


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