Personality and Behavior
Character descriptions are important in many stories. Especially if the story is not illustrated, where the reader can see how the characters look like–your vision, or the vision you want the reader to have of a character. To be honest, even after you describe a character, you and the reader’s vision may be different.
I find character descriptions to be the most challenging thing about writing a story. Often, I will put that off until after I’ve written the entire story. After writing the story, I will, during the editing process, go back and include descriptions. But even then, I feel the descriptions will be vague. The questions I have always asked myself when describing a character are:
- Are they short, tall, or average height?
- Are they over, under, or average weight?
- Do they have grey, red, brown, black, yellow, green, or purple hair?
The list goes on. Although these descriptions are helpful for the reader to know since it will leave them with an idea of how the character looks like, to me, it doesn’t necessarily describe the character. It doesn’t really tell the reader anything unique about them.
Another favorite website of mine, Writing Helping Writers, has a library of character descriptions and list many ways to incorporate them into a story. The thing I like most about this website is though they discuss how to use physical attributes to describe a character, they also include how to use behavioral/emotional attributes to describe a character, which I believe is the most effective way of uniquely describing characters in a story. On this website, they list an attribute, for example sentimental, and give examples of stories that had characters who exhibit that behavior. They will also define what the attribute means, what causes one to have such an attribute, the positives and negatives of having the attribute, who likely has been portrayed as having the attribute (i.e. teenage girls, women, children), clichés to avoid when giving this attribute to a character, ways you can change the way you use this attribute, and conflicting characteristics you can also attach to a character who has this attribute to make them truly unique and interesting.
I discovered this website a year and a half ago, so in the struggle to bring my characters to life— give them more of a unique standing instead of just describing them physically, I believe this website made a difference in teaching me how to bring out my characters’ personalities, thus fully describing them. I think it is important to incorporate personality into physical descriptions. This is especially important if the character you are describing does not really have a unique physical attribute.