For this month, the lovely people here at Round Robin are discussing how much we leave out of our work when it comes to the character on the page. Sometimes we must leave things to the magic of the reading process and permit the Reader to fill in where they wish, and I will admit that I do this a great deal.
Or at least, I do this a great deal where it comes to physical descriptions.
I suppose this is because I start with a conversation, and never with a picture. I know some authors have detailed character sheets that go through everything from what type of peanut butter their character likes (smooth or crunchy) to the birthmark on their left thigh, but I don’t.
Books for me are as much about getting to know the character on the page as they are the plot that surrounds them. And when it comes right down to it, unless that physical description has ramifications to the plot itself – such as Trenna being far shorter than everyone else and having to struggle to reach the high shelf, or the taps embedded in Jorry and Seach Barlow’s skin – then I find it is much better left to the Reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks.
There are exceptions to this, of course.
When Nelek is looking at Trenna, the things he notices and the way he describes her are important because it reveals who Nelek is as a person. It reveals how much he loves her. She has a thin, uneven sort of mouth, but to him it fits perfectly against his own.
But I know this about Trenna because of the ongoing conversation I have with Nelek as I’m writing the story.
Which I suppose might sound weird to those who aren’t authors, but what’s life without a little bit of strange?
For my soon-to-be released novel Paw Prints on the Wall, I did something a little different. I went to Pinterest and created a page specifically for this novel and selected some faces that I felt mirrored the characters on the page. This didn’t stop the conversation as I thought it might, and if I’m honest I don’t think you can really peg the actors with the slight descriptions on the page, but in the end it was an enormous help. Because if I was stuck I could go to that page and skim through the photographs and eventually I would become un-stuck.
In the end, it’s more important to me that you know who they are than what they look like. I’ll give highlights – so-and-so has blonde hair, so-and-so is tall – but beyond that I’m willing to let you fill in the rest.
See what my fellow authors have to say in this month’s Round Robin!
Round Robin Participants
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Dr. Bob: https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/?p=10492
A.J. Maguire https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ ( YOU ARE HERE)
Robin Courtright http://rhobincourtright.com
4 thoughts on “September Round Robin – Character Creations”
Suppose I (the author) consider a particular face to be just right for a villain, and describe it in detail. When you read my story, hey, that description exactly fits your kind uncle you love so much. One reader lost. So, it’s better to leave the face a blank, and allow you to insert the face YOU consider to be villainous.
I agree with you, the reader’s perception is most important. Afterall the author wants them to continue reading.
I do have detailed outlines, perhaps not down to the brand of peanut butter, but with all the other pertinent info – but perhaps that’s more for my personal memory – I’ve found myself half way through a book and suddenly I want Peter to show up in his Camaro . . . or was that a Mustang he was driving before? See what I mean. But I absolutely agree with you that keeping the details of appearance to a minimum helps the momentum to keep from stalling. As a reader I tend to skip right over those parts if they are lengthy and then I sometimes miss the one detail I DID need to know. Good post.
I thought I left a comment yesterday, but it is missing. And yes, I agree characters are as important to the story as the plot. I also keep a record of my characters’ information. (So easy to forget when writing).