Don't forget my interview with YA author/agent Mandy Hubbard. Monday March 1st. There will be a chance to win a copy of Mandy's book, Prada and Prejudice. Hope to see you here. =)
In Revision & Self-Editing, James Scott Bell suggests we start a character voice journal. "You are trying to let the voice of the character develop organically. You want to be able to hear the character so he/she doesn't sound like any of the other characters." Start a free-form document that is just the voice of your character, in stream-of-consciousness mode. Mr. Bell says to go wild with this. Have the character answer such questions as: What do you care most about in the world?
What really ticks you off? Let the answers come in any form, without editing. Your goal isn't to create usable text (though that can happen). You're trying to get to know this character that you will be spending all this time with.
And it works.
'When describing your characters, professional writers are of two minds. Some believe in giving a full visual description. They want to control the picture in the mind of the reader. The other view, much more popular today, is minimalist. It recognizes that readers are going to form their own picture regardless, and that will be more powerful than what you, the author, can come up with."
When I read a book, I form my own opinions of the characters physical descriptions. I like it that way. In my novel, I don't physically describe the characters too much. Oh, we know that Anna has red hair, and I show that through her sometimes nasty temper and we know that Claire is short, which I show in her tiny frame clinging to Rundee's neck as Rundee (her horse) becomes spooked from the thunder storm. But I want to leave much up to the readers imagination. And I don't use descriptions in a generic way. No matter how much description you add, describe the characters in such a way that you add to the tone of the novel. Descriptions should do more than create a picture--they should support the other things you're doing in the story.
Mr. Bell reminds us that in Donald Westlake's 361, the lead character loses an eye in chapter one. In chapter two, he gets a glass eye. Later on, when trying to convince an old man to talk, he pops out the glass eye and uses it for shock value. It works. The old man keels over and dies. That, Mr. Bell reminds us, is getting double duty out of character traits. On Friday I will have more on characters. This stuff is just too good not to talk about.
So which approach to describing characters do you use? Thank you for reading. I love y'all! =)