Describing Characters

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DESCRIBING CHARACTERS

Let's jump right into this. Far too often in Wattpad stories, I see characters described like so:

"I looked at my best friend, Amy. She had blond wavy hair, blue eyes, and tan skin. She was taller than me, and had perfect pink pouty lips. When she smiled, she showed off her perfect white straight teeth and her cute dimples."

Okay...I can understand why amateur authors may describe their characters in this way. They want us to be able to envision and picture the character in our heads as we read. I understand, I do.

However, think about it. When you walk up to your best friend, what goes through your head? Most likely you won't recount their appearance every time you see them. Perhaps there is one certain feature you're jealous of, (e.g. her dimples) so it's okay to mention that. Because THAT might be natural for a person to think.

When you're describing someone your character is familiar with, try not to use the 'block description,' as I call it. If your character knows this person already, he/she will have their appearance memorized and has no need to recount it every time they see him/her.

Before I address how to describe familiar characters, I want to first point out when it is sometimes suitable to use the 'block description.'

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DESCRIBING STRANGERS

If your character is seeing someone for the first time ever, say a stranger, and she/he is new to their appearance, this is when it is sometimes suitable to use 'block description.' Think about it, when you meet someone new, you usually visually scan them and take in all their description, right? So your character might also.

HOWEVER, this is not an excuse to:

1) Describe every single attribute the stranger has. Does your character really have time to study the stranger like that? And wouldn't it be a little creepy? This seems unrealistic. She can mention the facts that stand out about the stranger: He is tall, he stands with his weight more on one leg, he looks like he hasn't slept in days, etc. You don't need to go on and on about his hair color, eye color, skin color, teeth color, lip color, etc. Is it vital to the story? You can express that the character is attractive without giving us his full run-down.

2) Describe the stranger like a dreamy angel. Remember what we talked about in the 'Perfect Love Interest' chapter? Wrong way to describe stranger: He had such dreamy eyes that matched his tan complexion, which was a contrast to his light, light blond hair. He was fit, and I could see his 6-pack through his shirt. His lips formed around his bleach-white teeth in a perfect smile, causing his sparkling blue eyes to narrow. He stood about a foot taller than me, which was good because I liked my men tall."  I've seen way too many of these on Wattpad, that I want to get sick every time I see another one. Thanks to authors who write like this, now every girl who reads those descriptions will be unsatisfied with the men of the world. The REAL men, might I add. Not these unrealistic, fake statues.

When describing a stranger, focus on the attributes that make him/her different and that gives away a bit of his/her personality.

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Example:

"He stepped towards me, reaching out his hand to help me up. As I accepted, I couldn't help but notice the hard callouses on his hands. I murmured a thanks as he began to walk away, a slight limp in his step. His demeanor was cold, seemingly unforgiving. Everything about him, from his slicked back hair and pressed lips, screamed stuck-up and spoiled. Something in his attitude, however, was intriguing. He never met my gaze, not once."
Etc. Etc. (I just made that up on the spot, so don't get too picky now.)

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