Prepared by: Florence Cardinal
Posted on: Sun, 14 Oct 2001
Reposted on: Sat, 5 Oct 2003
Reposted on: Sun, 4 Jul 2004
DESCRIBING THE VIEWPOINT CHARACTER
How do you get a description of your
viewpoint character to your
How do you describe a person when you are writing as that person? This
even more difficult when you're writing in first person. Seeing your
reflection in a mirror or store window (or even a pool of water) is
and frowned upon by many editors and publishers. So - how can you have
readers "see" this person?
EXAMPLE #1: Marla took extra care in
arranging her hair for her date
Ricardo. She remembered how, in the past, he had always said he loved
way she wove her thick ebony hair into a braided coil around her head.
said it suited her heart-shaped face and dark brown eyes.
EXAMPLE #2: Peter had counted so much on
winning this race. Of
riding now was completely out of the question. The broken leg had come
the worst possible moment. Well, they would still win! She wrapped the
strips of sheet tightly around her breasts, giving thanks for once that
wasn't buxom like her friend Alice. She slipped into Peter's jockey
and tucked it into the pants. She considered tucking her hair beneath
cap, but it was so close to the silvery blond shade and collar length
Peter's locks that she decided to leave it.
For this exercise,in 300 words or less,
write a few paragraphs
viewpoint character while in that character's point of view.
Florence Cardinal's wrap-up
Posted on: Sun, 21 Oct 2001
Who Am I? An interesting question, and, as
is usual with our
elicited a wealth of interesting submissions. The majority did well
exercise. The main problem I found was being in the character's point
view, but describing the character in words that someone wouldn't
use when speaking of him or herself.
For instance: The old brown suit bagged in
the seat. Without a
your character know this? OR: She was lovely with a heart shaped face
eyes the blue of a mountain lake. Now this might be fine, flowery as it
from someone else's viewpoint, or if using omniscient viewpoint, but if
you're in the character's POV, or, even worse, first person: "I was
with my heart-shaped face and my eyes that were the blue of a mountain
it sounds vain, to say the least. I think I'd toss this book back on
shelf and find something a little more plausible.
The submissions, however pointed out
numerous ways to describe our
character without benefit of the looking glass:
1. Through someone else's remarks as he or
she looks at the
2. Personal observation, perhaps as the person gets dressed, noticing
the clothing fits.
3. Retrospection - comparing how s/he looks now to past remembrances.
4. Looking at photographs
5. Comparing himself or herself to someone else.
And there may have been more ways or
variations on the ones I've
So, if not always easy, it is definitely possible. I hope others have
gleaned as much from this exercise as I have. This has always been a
Florence Cardinal's wrap-up
Posted on: October 14, 2003
This appears to have been a difficult
exercise for some of you.
you needed better direction and we'll see what we can do about
that, should we run this exercise again.
Several people described the personalities
of their character when
we were looking for was the physical appearance. Others ended up
instead of showing. She had hair the color of sunlight is a great
sentence. Very descriptive. But if it's the viewpoint character you're
describing from her own point of view - well, I can't imagine anyone
describing their own hair this way. Eye color was another big problem.
Can you see your own eyes without using a mirror? No, but your child
look at you and tell you how pretty your blue eyes are.
I know it's not easy to describe your
viewpoint character while in
POV. It takes some thought and a bit of ingenuity. Just remember to
describe what she can actually see, and do it using words she might use
herself. No hair the color of sunshine. Or have someone else compliment
the character on a facial feature, or make fun of something, like
teasing about the size of someone's nose.
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