Home   •   message   •   submission   •   Archive   •   Theme
February 2014
18

Anonymous asked

I was wondering about how to describe settings. For example, when my character walks into a new room should I immediately describe the room or slowly add more details as the scene progresses? (If you understand what I mean)

Description has always been tricky. Too much? Too little? In my opinion there should be a balance. Enough so we know where your character is but not so little we have no idea if they are in the middle of the ocean or lost in a black void of nothingness (and if they were, it’d be interesting to describe that). 

It’s common to describe when the character enters a new environment and go from there. So regarding your question: a little bit of both? If I’m in a place for the very first time, I’m not going to notice everything straight away. I will pay attention to the details that draw my attention the most. Then, as I’m more familiarized with my surroundings, I may be able to describe things that aren’t noticeable in the first try. 

-Alex

May 2013
12

Anonymous asked

Re character descriptions, I was wondering if you had any advice for describing main characters when writing in the first person? It feels unnatural to shoe-horn in a description and I don't really want to resort to the mirror trope. Thank you :)

I’m gonna quote this from this article: 

Describe your character’s appearance by how they feel about it. People have complicated relationships with their appearance and even what they wear. Don’t let the chance to explore your character slip away by neglecting that!

Let’s see what the article says:

Why it’s a cop out: It’s lazy, it’s been done to death, and anyway, no one looks in a mirror and takes stock of all their features in severe detail. I would argue you don’t need to belabor the description of your main character anyway. You can hit the big points—if your character’s defining trait is a deformity or a hairstyle—there are ways to work that into the narrative. For the rest of if, you have to trust the reader. First that they don’t need to be coddled, and second, that they’ll project something onto the character. 

It is good if the story calls for it. Let’s say your character got into a fight and they bruised their face. They WILL check their face and try to see the severity of the damage. I know I would. And I know I have random moments of analyzing my face in the mirror or making funny faces. Depends on the character. 
Another way I’ve seen is to show description through dialogue. While the character is talking to other people, they mention some things you may take as description.  
Good stuff: 1, 2, 3 
 
-Alex

May 2013
05

the-hardyest-critic asked

Opinion (for describing characters) - a dirt-encrusted fingernail scratching along an untrimmed beard speaks more to a character than a description of their actual physical appearance ever will. My two cents.

Damn you. 

-Alex

May 2013
05

Anonymous asked

My only suggestion with writing appearances is that audiences tend to assume characters are white as a default unless their name or surname is obviously from a different culture. So if you meant your character to be a POC, then it's important to have some kind of description about it. Alternatively, I've read books where they emphasize eye color so that you realize 'oh this person is actually related to THAT person'.

This is what I meant by “wrong conclusions”, so I agree with you.

And if you feel like you have to tell people “hey, this person is a person of color” you may as well describe the skin color of those who are not. If you’re doing it for one, do it for the other.  

May 2013
05

afriendtosell asked

In regards to the question about describing characters -- all of the authors I follow who write genre fiction seem to unilaterally agree that it has to be done to some small extent. Things like "they have a rounded face," "he looked like a linebacker," etc, etc, etc, are things readers need to get a good mental image. Another thing is timing -- running into someone isn't going to give you the best look of their face, but meeting them for dinner might.

^

May 2013
05

Anonymous asked

I don't want to "explain" my characters appearance. even though in my head I know exactly what my characters look like. when it comes to a novel, where the are no pictures (e.g. movies/comic books) I just think it is irrelevant. I want my characters to be perceived by what they do and what they say. is it risky to make my readers use their imagination?

I think it is good to let your readers use their imagination. But to an extent. There has to be some degree of description you have to provide. Otherwise, they (the readers) may end up having  the wrong conclusions. 

How much is enough? 

If it bores and bogs down the story, it’s too much.

If there’s no sense on who the person is, it’s too little.

However, I’ve seen books with little to no description of the characters, so if you think it’s not relevant to the story you want to transmit, then it isn’t. Describing your characters for the sake of doing it leads nowhere, it’s what those details bring to the table what really matter. And if those details aren’t necessary, don’t include them. I hardly describe my characters when I write short stories, for example, as all the meaning I want to give is in the action. 

I like to describe my characters, though, just the way I like to describe the settings and the surroundings where my characters are in. I like the imaginery I can provide to them and giving my readers a nice idea of what my characters look like. 

Followers? Any opinions? 

-Alex

April 2013
15

smile-love-shine asked

Is there a good way to write characters of different skin colors (like the ones that exist in this world) without coming off as racist and without referring to real-world places (it's a fantasy world)?

Something I’ve read several times is to never use food to describe skin color. No chocolate, no coffee or anything like that. It’s offensive. 

I answered an ask very similar to this once regarding asian looking characters in a universe where Asia doesn’t even exist. I think the advice I gave there is applicable here as well. 

You describe their features, rather than just saying what race/ethnicity they are. You describe the color of their skin, the characteristics of their faces, their hair, and how they look overall the way you’d describe any other character. Here’s how to describe a character’s looks well. Here’s how to describe eyes. Here’s help describing skin color

WriteWorld’s skin deep tag is a good place where to find useful things.

Overall, I don’t know that much about Fantasy as a genre, so if anyone has tips, you can always reply and/or slap me. 

-Alex

April 2013
15

artificialrealist asked

Any ideas how to write about emotions? To make them vivid and touching?

Make them relatable. Think about that time you felt what your character felt, or something close to it. Be specific, don’t just write “he was happy”, tell us why he was happy, or how happy he is. If I were standing next to him, how would I know he’s happy? what is he doing? what’s the expression in his face? Use the setting. I don’t mean you should make it rain when it’s a sad scene, I’m saying people perceive what’s around them differently when they’re feeling a certain way. If they’re happy, they may fail to notice their dull grey surroundings, or even find them beautiful. Use internal dialogue, tell us about what your character is thinking.

Merely telling us about your character’s emotions will do nothing. Explain them to us, show them to us. 

-Alex