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Making Characters Come Alive in Modern Literature, Part 1

In: English and Literature

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Making Characters Come Alive in Modern Literature

A character's description is a large part of who he or she is, and how other characters may initially react to the character. Indeed, giving a description powerful enough may influence the general future of how a character is perceived by others and portrayed by an author as a story develops. The more detailed the description, the more he “pops” off the page and into the reader's heart.

One simple example to begin with.

John is a good looking man who carries a gun.


John is never without a weapon, a specific pistol which he holds in such a way that it always manages to catch the light on its metal surfaces. An angelic face belies good genetics or simple luck which causes people to take pause and a second look every time he walks into a room.

The first sentence says nothing about the character. The brief paragraph gives the reader a better idea of who John is, though motives, desires and so on remain unstated. To further flesh out a character, the following should be kept in mind.

The Basics
The apparent age, height, weight, body frame, coloration of skin, eyes and hair are all notes that any author should instinctively tackle. Scars, blemishes, tattoos and so on give the character even more life.

Expanded Vision
Judging the weather can mean more than calling up a website. You need to know to look at the clouds (where are they going, what do they look like, how many are there), the trees (how hard are the leaves blowing, from which direction), the sun (how bright, are its edges crisp) and the ocean (what kind of waves are we having, how quickly are they coming, how large are they) just to name a few. In penning a character's description, any author should try to follow this same instinct. Don't get so focused on the sky that you miss the ocean. John's kneecaps might be as…...

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