Sunday, April 22, 2012

Character Descriptions

Somewhere along the way, I was taught or think I was taught to give complete descriptions of characters - physical stats like hair and eye color, body build, and so on.  But for some time now, I've paid close attention to descriptions in books and good television scripts which seem to slip in as snippets here and there and don't follow the old patterns of including every detail.

I just finished reading a novel in a popular mystery series in which the main character is a successful writer and thief.  During the story, he mentions that his passport photo looks nothing like him.  After I finished the book, I realized that was the only description of him in the entire book.  Nothing about age or the typical tall/short, blue/brown eyes, blond/brown hair, fat/skinny, etc.  And yet, I formed my own mental picture of him and could see him clearly.

I remember a description from the TV series, Frasier.  His father commented on a brief affair his wife had and he summed up her paramour in these few words - a urologist with a bad comb-over.  I think it's one of the best descriptions ever.

I tend to make descriptions fairly brief because I don't like them.  So, I skip long-winded descriptions when I read and go for less is more when I write. 

What kind of descriptions do you like to write or read?  Brief?  Detailed?

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