Let’s be honest, writing isn’t just about the writer spinning a great tale. The most successful authors are able to create characters that come alive on the page and feel like real, breathing people. If an author is unable to do this well, it will be hard for readers to connect with their stories or get invested in them.
What is a Character Description?
Character description is a form of writing that gives readers access to information about a character. The information can be the visual appearance of the character, or it might be about the background or personality of the character.
Writing a character description is one of the most important steps in creating a fictional person. A good writer will be able to flesh out their characters and make them unique by describing them in ways that set them apart from other people.
What can go wrong?
If an author doesn’t get the right balance, the result can be disastrous. One of the most common mistakes is to make a character too perfect. It’s understandable why an author might do this. Most of us are more physically attractive than others, so it’s natural that we’ll want to share our good looks with people who are nothing more than made up.
However, if everyone in your fictional world is perfect-looking the entire world will end up coming across as plastic and fake. Readers won’t be able to connect with their stories, and you risk the chance of losing them in the first ten pages.
How to Write a Character Descriptions, making it work
Creating a character description for your fictional people is about finding the right balance between making them feel relatable and unique. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you try to create your characters.
Eyebrows should be carefully considered when writing a character description.
The right eyebrow shape can help define a person’s identity and make them stand out, while the wrong eyebrows can detract from their “look” and give them an off-putting appearance.
Include multiple adjectives when describing your characters.
You don’t want to describe someone by calling them “tall” or “bald”. Instead, go into detail and say that they’re short for their age, or slightly receding at the temples.
Make sure you research different parts of the body when thinking about how to write a character description.
If the era in which your story is set has fashions that affect people’s dress, then you’ll need to know what types of accessories go with certain tattoos before you describe them in writing.
Let your characters be multi-dimensional.
It can be easy to paint people as one-dimensional caricatures, but this isn’t how real life works. By using details that paint different pictures, you’ll create a character that feels real and interesting.
Don’t rely on clichés when writing a character description.
Even if you think certain traits are expected in people, sometimes they can bring your characters to life. Instead of saying someone is “tanned”, make them olive-skinned, or sunburned if their complexion is darker.
A big part of writing a character description is dialogue and action.
If you can show how your people move and make them feel like genuine people with unique personalities, you’ll be able to write a more realistic and interesting character for your readers to love.
How to Write a Character Descriptions in 10 Steps
The key to creating well-rounded characters is to begin by understanding what makes them unique.
Your characters are an important part of your story. If they’re cardboard cutouts, your book might as well be a blank sheet. So how do you create fully-fleshed, interesting characters? Here’s a 10-step guide to help you bring them to life!
1 – Give Them a Voice
People talk. Without exception. So, characters should talk too.
There are exceptions to the rule (like the silent Protagonist), but generally speaking, your characters should have a distinctive way of talking. This means you need to listen to their dialogue and give it an appropriate voice.
Do this by listening for quotable quotes or subtle ticks that indicate how your character talks. If you have a difficult time with dialogue, it might be helpful to write out your characters’ conversations as they would sound if they were speaking.
2 – Give Them Goals
Every person has goals. Your protagonist should have them too. Perhaps they want to find true love or conquer an illness. Maybe their goal is to become a millionaire or find a missing person.
Your character’s long-term goals can replace the traditional three acts structure in your novel. If you know what they want, you have something to build towards and create dramatic tension for when things go wrong. The more specific their goal is, the more engaging it will be.
3 – Give Them Backstory
Your character’s backstory will inform their present. So, they need to have one!
The best way to develop your characters is to give them a history. It doesn’t always need to be spelled out (in fact, it rarely is), but if they’ve been through the wringer and they’re still standing, you better believe they have a story.
Details can be revealed gradually via dialogue or flashbacks, but your characters will need a history to draw from. As a general rule, the more traumatic their past was, the more interesting they’ll be!
4 – Make Them Unique
Every person is unique. They come from different places and backgrounds with their own personalities and quirks.
So, your characters should too! Just think about the people you know in real life. How are they different? What sets them apart from everyone else? This is where you get to show off by making your characters interesting!
It’s not enough to make them different, though. You need to find something specific that sets them apart. How is your main character different from the protagonist in every other book on the market?
5 – Give Them ‘Buttons’
Most people have buttons that can be pushed or triggered that makes them act irrationally. To go back to our earlier analogy, these are what you use to push your characters’ emotional responses and get them moving in a certain direction.
Every character needs buttons. It’s the only way they’ll be believable and it will make them interesting to write about.
You can give characters literal buttons that work when they’re pushed, or you can use phrases that have been known to push people’s buttons, like ‘don’t judge a book by its cover‘ or ‘put your money where your mouth is.’
6 – Give Them Challenges
What tests their boundaries? Characters might want something but find themselves unable to achieve it (or vice versa). They need obstacles if they’re going to feel like real people! Some of these may take the form of villains; others could be misunderstandings between characters who are otherwise friendly with each other, whether they be family members or friends.
7 – Give Them Fears
As the old saying goes, ‘fear is not the absence of strength; it’s the presence of weakness.’ We all have fears that control us to one extent or another.
So, don’t neglect to insert some weaknesses into your characters’ psyche. If they have no fear, then there is nothing holding them back from succeeding! Usually, these fears will manifest as some sort of phobia, but you could also use a character flaw like being too proud or stubborn to see reason.
8 – Make Them Relate-able
No matter how strong or powerful your characters are, they have to be relatable so they can connect with readers. Readers want their protagonists to feel like someone they know or could meet in real life.
Make your characters particular; make them different from the everyman, but still relatable to the average Joe. Sure, it’s fiction, but you want your reader to care about these people…to root for them and really believe in them. If they’re too much of an enigma then readers won’t be able to get behind them or see themselves within your protagonist’s shoes!
9 – Give Them Interaction With Others
The easiest way to characterize someone is by making their interactions with others interesting. Everyone has certain mannerisms that stand out when they’re talking (or not talking) to other people.
If your character spends most of his/her time alone, then you’ll need to make their behavior when they are by themselves interesting. But if your character is rarely alone, then people are going to be what makes them interesting!
10 – Find What Drives Them & Make That Clear
What defines your character? Why do they do the things that they do? These questions should all have answers.
It’s important to find out why your characters function like they do and figure out how this affects who they are as a person. Even though motivation might go deeper than this (religion or philosophy, for example), without knowing what drives your characters, it will be difficult for readers to connect with them and take them seriously.
So! How did we do? Can you think of other tips for creating a strong main character? How have you done it in the past? Share your best opinion on How to Write a Character Description in the comment section