Sunday, March 20, 2011

Describing People: a writing post

Today I am going to set aside the latest franchise castings and social commentary and instead talk to you about an aspect of my writing. Last night, I had a bit of a breakthrough on the novel front. I'm not sure where it came from but I completely loved where it went. As a result, I am feeling a bit invigorated and ready to go and rewrite. But before that, I wanted to share some tidbits that I won't call tips for fear of your expectations. I'd also like to admonish that I'm not a professional.

One of the things that I personally don't believe I'm very good at in the writing sense is describing people. Usually, I'm quite a visual learner but when I'm reading, I never really go beyond imagining characters' basic make-up. Once I have a hair colour, approximate height/build and skin tone, I'm good. Eye colour and anything like that can be important to me but only exceptionally. Because of this, unless a book-turned-movie casting is *really* off (in the Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss sense, I guess) I rarely care.*

When writing, I do have a bit more detail in mind when I imagine characters but I'm not extremely talented at conveying that to the page. Every time I do try to fit in a character description in my novel, it seems clunky and awkward or too late in the story to matter.**

Last night I was trying to beat down this barrier and learn how to describe people in a way that is flowy and make sense. I brainstormed reasons a person would be describing themselves in their inner monologue and this is my current list:

  • staring in a mirror (overdone and cringe-worthy whenever I'm reading)
  • comparing self to another person
  • dwelling on an insecurity
  • enjoying a moment of vanity or pride
Think about it. When was the last time you thought descriptively about how you looked? If you have anything to add to this list, I'd appreciate a comment.

This got me onto thinking about my protagonist, Evie, and how she relates to herself. What is she insecure about? What features and aspects of her looks is she proud of? How does she think she compares to the people around her? It was a pretty successful moment for me and so I thought I'd share it.

I'm going to try and write some describtions for the rest of my characters now and then try to fit them in somewhere. Or should I find an appropriate place for them and then write? Novel writing: the ultimate evidence that I have no idea what I'm doing.

*On the exception front, Harry's eye colour in the movies really bugs me. Dan Radcliffe is great in every other way and I know he was ten years old or whatever but could they not have given the kid a pair of coloured contacts?? The green eyes are an IMPORTANT PLOT POINT. Gah. This still bothers me when I watch the movies.
**I dislike it when I get halfway through the book and then find out about a significantly defining feature of a character, whether it's race or a different hair colour. This doesn't actually follow my 'I don't physically imagine people complexly' trend but it is still bothersome.

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