More on characters

» Posted on Mar 31, 2005 in Blog | 0 comments

Another aspect on making your characters three dimensional is physical description.
It is the first aspect of making your character three dimensional. You have total control over how your character will look so use his features to emphasize the image you want to project.

For example, In Gold in the Fire, my October 2004 Love Inspired, this is the way I describe how Darcy sees Joshua for the first time. “The sound of a deep, husky voice floated to her from the swirls of gray smoke and fog. Her eyes stung as she searched the yard. Emerging from the shroud of heavy mist appeared a man, dressed in a black jacket with yellow strips and black pants. He removed his fire helmet and cradled it under his arm. Dark brown hair, damp from sweat, lay at odd angles. Black smudges highlighted the hard angles of his face and emphasized the blueness of his eyes. For just a moment Darcy thought of a warrior striding purposefully toward her.”

The point I want to make is not to throw a bunch of physical features together. Think about what you want to communicate to the reader and use the physical description of your character to convey that.

When coming up with your physical description of your character, remember everything that it should encompass: age, appearance (hair, eyes, skin, body type), the sound of his voice, mannerisms, how he walks, how he talks (slow, fast), does he use his hands when he talks. With mannerisms the character should have some that he does when he’s angry, happy, sad. Perhaps he paces when he’s angry or when he’s nervous he rubs his fingers together. These mannerisms can become character tags for your character. The reader will know he’s angry or nervous without you having to say it. And remember when you are describing your character, put emotions into the description, not simply what his hair color is or his eye color.

With features you can even use the opposite of what the character really is. For example a warrior/fighter wearing glasses. We tend to think of nerds or more serious, studious characters wearing glasses. I write a lot of alpha males with dark hair but you can use a California type man with blonde hair to add contrast to your physical description.

Not only should you describe the character but things like what he likes to eat, how he eats (does he bolt his food or savor it). Also where does he live? How does it look? Is he messy or neat? Does he live in an apartment or a mansion? What’s the state of his health like? All these things help a reader to get a feel for who your character is. Remember to go beyond just a simple physical description, and when describing him through another character’s eyes, put the emphasis on the features you want to play up–I’ll call these physical tags. It could be a scar, a limp, a dimple–any number of things.

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