Making Characters Come Alive in Modern Literature, Part 1

1281 Words Aug 17th, 2012 6 Pages
Making Characters Come Alive in Modern Literature

A character's description is a large part of who he or she is, and how other characters may initially react to the character. Indeed, giving a description powerful enough may influence the general future of how a character is perceived by others and portrayed by an author as a story develops. The more detailed the description, the more he “pops” off the page and into the reader's heart.

One simple example to begin with.

John is a good looking man who carries a gun.

or

John is never without a weapon, a specific pistol which he holds in such a way that it always manages to catch the light on its metal surfaces. An angelic face belies good genetics or simple luck which
…show more content…
The Trap of Metaphors
The mixed metaphor gets first prize at exposing inexperienced authors, or simply those who just don't really care when writing a description (and regular authors, as well). To wit: “Without his pistol, John is a bird shot from the sky, his very foundation a crumble of boulders under the rotting timbers of defenselessness.” First off, this is entirely wrong for almost any description. Second, even if it was correct, birds don't have foundations or rotting timbers, and houses don't get shot out of the sky. If you use a metaphor in a description, keep it simple. “Without his pistol, John is an eagle missing its talons.”

Engage the Senses
We've been given five basic senses; use them. When a descriptive passage fails for no reason that an author can easily discern, take a good look at the sensory details. Are they purely visual, as they often are? Try adding a sound or a scent to get the prose moving again. Perhaps John has an odor of ozone from constantly firing his weapon. Maybe he limps. Wheezes?

Avoid Brand Names
Sometimes being specific can be important. Perhaps naming John's pistol as a Beretta calls forth not only the image, but also the idea of quality. Alternatively, it makes John very generic – many people carry Berettas. Unless an obscure brand is crucial to the story, it is probably acceptable to leave out noting that John carries a 5.57x54 Makarov. No one knows what that is,

More about Making Characters Come Alive in Modern Literature, Part 1

Open Document