Concrete Detail

Erika Hayes, Author – Write like a reader, read like a writer and edit like a beast!


We’ve been discussing character development and the truth is the more detail you have for your characters, the more your characters will feel real to you and your readers.  That’s important, but now it’s time to talk about how to write these deeply dimensional characters.

As the writer, you ‘ve taken time to picture and record all those details now it’s time to put them to use.  The most important thing to do now…is to ease off.  While it is important to me, the writer to know all the little nuances of the character, if we share all that information with our readers they will be BORED!  You will use the information you have gathered to better understand your character.  To know how to take them out of the comfort zone.  A description is a delicate thing.  Try revealing things about characters in action here is an example:

“She reached over the antique desk and accepted the file from his pudgy fingers.”

“He watched the gaze of her sage eyes travel over the long lines of his new tailored suit.  The pull on the side of his mouth was strong.  Her eyes nearly level with his she extended her hand.”

“She lifted her arms to the side, smiled at the loose blouse, it was a long battle but she finally made it.”

How these small details work:

Your reader will see your character but they also learn that the person she is receiving the file from is overweight.

At some point, you will need to use colors to describe things but you can weave them into your story and avoid the list descriptions.  Believe it or not, stating “the long lines,” tells me the character is tall.  We also learn that the woman is most likely rather tall too, her eyes are nearly level with his. Do we need to know your character is 6’4″  no, not all the time.  You can leave it at tall then allow the reader to fill in those gaps.

Finally, your readers understand that the woman in this sentence has lost weight, most likely a lot of weight why because she met her goal.   The image your reader will have may be of themselves at a goal weight.  You did both of these without a list.

It is important to allow a reader to create images (use their imagination) in their mind’s eye because they are investing in your writing.  Interestingly, if you give too much detail, your characters may be difficult for all readers to see.   At some point, details can constrict imagination and the reader then can’t identify with the character because there is too much to remember.

In the case of details of a character, let them develop in the story. You do need to make sure your readers have enough detail to get the picture of the character.  For instance, don’t tell your reader “I look like my mother.”  Then never tell them what his/her mother looks like.  A great way to use that would be to have the character look at a photograph, describe an aspect of his mother/father and say he has that characteristic.

I hope you have enjoyed our look into character development. If you have any tips or tricks for developing characters, put it in a comment.  I would love to add your expertise to my notebooks!


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: