Monday, October 29, 2007

Physical descriptions of characters

Believe it or not, I don't read very many fictional novels, maybe 1 per year, if that. I'm not used to reading how long works of fiction play out.

One thing I never liked when writing is the early-in-the-story physical descriptions of characters and locations. Just plain old "here is what so-and-so looks like and here is how old she is and she lives in Minnesota, which looks like this in the Spring" stuff.

How important is it to just describe what a character looks like physically early in the book? I usually let little bits and pieces of it come out throughout the story, which means I get to avoid lengthy descriptions, but leave my readers with no one to really picture early on.


MaryK said...

I always thought the dump the description and go format was considered bad form.

But like many other 'rules' about writing, I have seen all of them broken in one way or another, and it has worked.

This has lead me to conclude that as long as the way you break them works, than do it. This trick is now when it works when it doesn't.

I think this is why so many advise writers to read widely in the genre in which they write so you can see how the published do it.


Dreaming again said...

oh man! I know what my characters look like ...hadn't thought about if I'd describe them or not ..or how I would.

One thing I'm not sure about is the main character ... her mom and sister are going to be 'perfect' and she is going to be, in her eyes, less than and somewhat tomboyish ... soooo

what does this mean for her looks she plain jane ...or is she simply understated?

now you have me thinking ..

which is a good thing.

#1 Dinosaur said...

Ditto. Whatever works for you. Dribbling the info into the story as you go works pretty well.

Nurse K said...

Yeah, I'm dribbling, I guess. My character descriptions are incontinent.

Dreaming again said...

ok ... Pk needs to get fresh Depends before reading responses from Nurse K ;)

Monotreme said...

I faced the same problem with last year's NaNovel. (It's one I'm shipping around to agents now.)

I had another problem: I always seem to enter my stories and take over as a character, even when I don't mean to.

So, I solved both problems. I had a character, Samuel Humbert (representing ME) stare at a woman who becomes my Main Female Character. He describes her in exquisite detail. Then, he steps in front of a concrete truck (lorry) and is killed instantly.

Voilá! Two problems solved.