3 Essentials of Effective Character Descriptions

footprint-71137_1280Imagine this scenario: You’re working on that all-important first chapter. You have all your resource files open on your computer, or perhaps printed out and spread on the table beside you: timelines, plot points, character notes, setting details.

You pen the opening paragraphs, setting the scene while avoiding too much description. You add a dash of dialog, a little action. Your main character is on the scene and you know exactly what she looks like, because you’ve written pages of description. You might’ve even written up a nifty character interview. Heck, you know everything from her favorite nail polish color to the contents of her backpack.

It’s time to paint her picture for the reader…and you have no idea where to start.

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David Morrel on What Writers Want

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I had the opportunity to hear best-selling author David Morrel (also known as “Rambo’s Daddy”) speak this past weekend–at Genre Fest, a joint event sponsored by the Colorado Authors League, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. His topic?

Writing the Best-Selling Novel

I’m not sure exactly what I expected from his talk–how-to tips, maybe, or the traits of best-sellers. And indeed, he spent the first half of the session talking about ways to “game the system” and become a best-seller. (Hint: find a niche that doesn’t already have authors who dominate that genre, or copy the latest best-selling success story. He didn’t advise these strategies, just pointed out that they’d worked for some authors.)

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3 Steps to a Problem-Solving Mindset

Forgetful. Lazy. Wasting your time. Those are a few of the “name-calling” labels that came up in Monday’s post on the dangers of labels. You could probably continue the list with labels of your own–you know, the things your inner critic starts chanting whenever you don’t measure up as a writer or a person.

Labels are death to creativity.

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Labels send the insidious message that you that you can’t change your situation. They keep you stuck.

Fortunately, you can fight back against those negative labels–by taking these steps toward a problem-solving mindset.

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Check the Label–and Avoid These Common Creativity Zappers!

Check the label! 

You probably do this without a second thought when you’re shopping. You check to see that foods contain healthy ingredients, to make sure cleaning products are nontoxic. Maybe you check labels to see where something was made, or whether it contains the kind of wool that makes Aunt Ethel itchy.

But how often do you notice the labels YOU put on things? Specifically, the labels you apply–probably without thinking–to yourself, your writing, your needs and desires?

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We humans are hard-wired to name things, to give them labels. Unfortunately, our brains are also hard-wired to pay more attention to negative information–which means that those negative labels are often on the tip of our mental tongues.

Have trouble getting started on that next chapter? Your inner critic slaps on labels like lazy or  not very creative. Skip writing for a few days or weeks? That inner critic labels you “not serious about writing.” 

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