Giving The Reader Visually Described Characters.

Visually describing the characters within our books is so important. Some of my favorite books are more memorable because the author has taken the time to portray the images of their characters to the point where they become real and solid in my mind. Let me share what I see as the key points to note, for each time I bring in a new character description, this is visually what I do.

  • Imagine yourself standing there, right where your character is.
  • Note 2 to 4 key components of what they’re wearing–clothing wise.
  • Do the same with 2 to 4 physical attributes–face, hair, eyes, skin, etc.
  • Take in their stance, their physical reactions. Are they nervous–their hands twitching. Are they angry–their nose flaring, etc. (There would hundreds of bodily reactions to emotions, and these are just two examples.)
  • Remember the five senses. Sight, smell, taste, feel and speak.
  • Now take only what you need from this list and visually show your reader what you’re seeing. (Obviously you won’t use everything. This list you’ve just made is simply to expand your options of what you might use.)
  • But the important thing to note is: use your imagination to take the description and make it a powerful image.

So, let’s jump to it and see an example, because I find it’s so important to add a showing to my posts. I’ve pulled this together for you.

Example: This is a battle scene and to set it, the heroine is standing in an arena as a fierce group of warriors enter. I’d like to portray what she sees, so I’ll be detailing three character descriptions.

In a single file she watched one man and two warrior women enter the arena. The man at the front of the pack was colossal in size with oily black hair hanging down over his shoulders, and wearing a vest of gray leather. Fire-breathing dragon tattoos curled over the other on his bared chest and arms. Sharp silver spikes were pressed into every inch of his leather belt which held a roughened metal mallet dangling from his side.

She glanced at the women. Scary. One had half her head shaved on either side, giving her a mohawk of bright red. A piece of coiled silver pierced one nostril and round silver hoops looped through both eyebrows. Tight leathers showed off a muscular body.

The second woman wore little less than a strip of black leather to contain her breasts, and black leather pants hugged her hips. The exposed skin from her waist up was painted in a dark camouflaging mud, a bloodied dagger held in one hand. The warrior woman nodded her head with one firm jab.

I know there is a lot of description here, but the reason is to fully draw what the heroine is seeing. I’d say she’s probably quite nervous after witnessing this. I know I would be.

I hope you get my point with character descriptions. You want to have your reader feel as if they’re there, seeing and feeling what you’re trying to portray. Did that come across for you?

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9 thoughts on “Giving The Reader Visually Described Characters.

  1. As always, you “show” what you mean so clearly. I really enjoy your posts and learn a lot from them. Thanks!

  2. I used to try describing characters; but I noticed that, at least the way I was doing it, it became intrusive. From a narrative standpoint, anyway. Now I prefer to let the reader develop an image more through dialogue, and maybe the occasional actions.

    ‘You know Bill?’
    ‘The big fat guy with the glasses?’
    Yeah. Always wears that stupid hat.’

    or:

    He rolled up his sleeves. Carefully. The silk was bordering on ten years in age, and couldn’t handle much stress anymore.

    But that’s just me.

  3. Thanks I found this tutorial really useful. Describing characters without slowing down the plot can be tough. I’m an author of a book called Cocktails at Naptime (for first time mums) so pop over for a cocktail any time!!

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