Do You See What I See?

Hello Friends! After a two-year hiatus, I am back blogging again. I have no clue what the topic is for this month, so I'm going to wing it.

I read something recently that caught my interest. The author, no I don't remember who, was talking about character description. Describing things is a weak area for me. I'm a dialog person. I could care less about the scenery. I want to know what's going on in their heart and mind. But, I know that readers need to see the story as well as feel it. Since it's still percolating around in my brain, I'll share my thoughts too.

How we describe our characters (and scenery) makes a big difference in how our readers perceive them. Brooding can mean contemplative or sulky. It can make your character seem menacing or gloomy. Stiff-necked can be stubborn, hard or arrogant. Character traits can be positive or negative, depending on what the author wishes to convey.

Rebellious, stubborn and pig-headed are not your normal complimentary words, but they can be in the right context. We wouldn't have the light bulb if old Thomas hadn't been a little on the stubborn side. You could call it dedicated. America would still have a king if we hadn't shown our rebellious independence and been pig-headed enough to fight for it.

It is important to give a complete description of what you are trying to show the reader. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you call your character beautiful, you need to show the readers why. Just beautiful doesn't cut it.

Here is an example:

     Coal's breath caught at the sight of Kelli. The morning sun's first rays caressed her face. Her squared jaw, which he had thought stubborn, now showed strength and determination. Silver-white hair glistened like the brightest moonlight as the breeze stirred its tresses. She smiled. He blinked. Her sea-green eyes radiated mischief mingled with joy.
     Until now, she had been just a neighbor. No more, heaven help him. She was a woman, all woman, overflowing with life and laughter.
     His eyes traveled down the length of her. She worked hard. It showed. Strong, but not muscular. Trim, yet soft and rounded in all the right places. Her giggle at his perusal resonated somewhere deep inside. She was beautiful, inside and out, and he was in serious trouble.

Like I said, descriptions are a weak area for me. I had to rewrite this several times. I'm still not sure I've got it right, but it is only an example. (That might accidentally end up in my book :) I could have added more about her size, her lips and whether she had freckles or not, but to me, Kelli's beauty comes more from within than without. 

Next time you describe a character, give it some thought. Try to convey what you sense as well as what you see. Anyone can be beautiful, handsome, brooding, sly, or catty , but we need to know why. Why are they beautiful? Why is he sly? How is she being catty? Make your characters three dimensional. Engage our emotions.  Make us love them or hate them. Stir our passions to keep us coming back for more. Write the pictures we need to see to make your story come alive.

I would love for you to send me an example of your character's description. Share with us how you get what you see in your head, down on to paper. I could also use a critique of my example. Feel free to tell me if I succeeded or not.



Joan Vincent said...

Welcome back, Becky! An excellent post The only thing "wrong" with it, is that it is making me rethink my descriptions. Below is a description of the first time my
French spy (in disguise of course) sees the widow who runs the local tavern. After your description it seems wanting.

Donatien removed his bicorne when he entered the tavern. He recognized several of the men seated around the tables. A slender blond strode past him carrying with ease a tray that was heavily weighted with overflowing ale mugs. The narrow oval of the woman’s face was elegant with dainty brows, nose, and lips. Her hair, an early fall’s gold with russet tints flowed down her back in a long plait. It swayed seductively against her derrière as she walked. Eggshell blue eyes gleamed with intelligence and wit as she scrutinized him in a searing glance that transfixed him.

Rox Delaney said...

Description isn't my strong suit, either. In fact, once a character is introduced, he/she is nekkid for the rest of the book, unless there's a reason needed for describing clothing. I also tend to break up descriptions with dialogue, internal thoughts or action.

I'll give it a shot. The following is the opening of A NANNY FOR THE COWBOY, coming out next month.

Luke Walker peeled back the edge of the curtain to get a glimpse of the woman getting out of her car in his driveway. “Not on your life, lady,” he muttered.

Ignoring the tug on the leg of his jeans, he watched what should have been a prospective employee walk up the path leading to the house. But “walk” was the wrong thing to call the seductive advance. Panthers on the prowl were less graceful.

The wind caught the young woman’s long, straight dark hair, blowing it over one shoulder, and she reached up to brush it back with her fingers. Luke saw very little of any of it, focused instead on her long legs in the trim, short skirt she wore.

Becky A said...

Hello, Joan!
I don't see anything wrong with your description. I can see it clearly. If you should decide to rewrite it, send it on so I can see what you did.
I've kept meditating on this and I'm wondering if we think our stuff is lacking because we see the whole picture but only describe a part. It would take forever to describe everything I see and who has that kind of time? Who would want to read every tiny detail either? I prefer to fill in some of the blanks when I read. However, sometimes authors leave out pertinent facts that leave me confused. Aacckk,details!

Becky A said...

Okay, Rox, you have messed me up. I never thought about my characters being naked, but now I will. LOL I very seldom ever describe clothes. That comes under the category of, DUH. Everyone should know they have clothes on! Can't they see into our minds?
I like what you've done with this description but you've given us no clue as to what her face looks like. Are you going to bring that out later, like when he opens the door?
I find describing faces the hardest. I can hit eyes, hair, smile and freckles but don't know whether it's oval, square or heart shaped. Guess I need to pay more attention to those around me. Oh, that would be my cat! Not a lot of help.
Thanks for sharing with us.

Rox Delaney said...

LOL Yes, Becky, her eyes are described in a paragraph shortly following the one I posted. :)

When I'm in the hero's/male POV, I don't get too detailed. Unless he's describing the square jaw of the heroine or something like that, most guys don't know the shapes of faces.

The best part of all this sharing is to see all the different ways to do it.