By Jack L. Bryson
Sometimes I get a story with characters that have fancy names but no description. Lady Casandra of Proxima Centauri sounds like an interesting person, but I would like to know what she looks like and something about her personality or motivations. Write a detailed description of all your characters- at least a page each. You can always cut some unnecessary description but not until you’ve created a clear picture of your characters. Character description won’t make your story too long and you won’t bore your audience.
One of the reasons for having character description is to keep the characters separate in your reader’s head. If you only have names of characters, you and the reader might confuse them with each other. Who is doing the talking, and who killed Colonel Custard with the pipe in the living room? Ideally (and with practice) you can drop details about your characters throughout the chapter you introduce them.
If it helps, use colored pencils or pens to sketch your character.
Here are some details you should ask about your characters: What is their ethnicity, sex, gender, race? Orientation? Are they male, female or squid?
What color are their eyes, hair and skin? Are they tall, stocky, short, lanky, fat, ripped? Do they have scars, birthmarks, tattoos? Do they smell like shampoo, perfume, urine, or garbage and why? Do they have facial hair? Are they well groomed or shaggy? Are they fastidious, lazy, aggressive, or lecherous? Are they kind, broken, generous and or naive? Do they wear jewelry, makeup, or warpaint? Do they have three arms or birth defects?
Are they super intelligent, strong or fast? Are they slow, weak and vulnerable? Are they old or young? Don’t just say they are young or old- be specific. Do they have deep or shallow wrinkles, a receding hairline or clear skin? Warts? Moles? Do they have an accent and is their voice gravelly or smooth? What is their nationality and what are they wearing? Are they wearing rags, a kimono, a uniform? Do they carry weapons? What are they and why?
I hope these questions help you create a rich and memorable character.
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