Describing people

When describing you people, you must ensure they are believable.

If writing about a real person think about their life, history, and background. If writing about a fictional character, you should try to come up with these details for your character.

This will allow you to ask and answer some important questions while you are writing:

  • What would this sort of person say?
  • What would this sort of person do?
  • What would this sort of person think?

Do not simply describe a character's appearance. Instead, select aspects of appearance which help to reveal the character's personality.

When describing someone's appearance avoid a list-like approach. Remember you don't have to describe everything from the top of a person's head to their toes.

Consider the following two descriptions.

Mary had blonde shoulder length hair and blue eyes. She wore a gold chain and a tight blue dress. She had blue leather shoes and carried a briefcase.

Mary was smart and efficient in a stylish way.

The second description encourages the reader's imagination, creating an image rather than a list.

The focus of your description can vary as required. For example, instead of describing the whole picture you can concentrate on a person's face or movement. Circumstances can change a person's eyes, or their mouth or even the way they hold their head.

Consider the following two descriptions.

Mary's eyes widened and sparkled as she read the news, her mouth slowly turned upwards.

Mary's eyes darted from side to side. She moistened her lips and swallowed hard.

Each of these descriptions show Mary experiencing very different emotions. In the first she is feeling happy because of what she has just read. But in the second she seems tense.

A writer controls how a reader sees characters. Look at the descriptions below and think about how the writer describes the character.

Paul was tall and slim and walked effortlessly across the room.

Paul was lanky and skinny and strode across the room in an ungainly manner.

The first description uses flattering words, while the second uses negative words. Depending on which is used, the reader could get a very different impression of Paul.

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