Following up on Sunday’s post, I realized that characters are often described (at least in amateur writing) by their hairstyle or hair color and eye color, but those two characteristics are so overused that they don’t make the mental image of the character any clearer.
I recently finished All the Rage (a YA novel by Courtney Summers), which made me feel as though I should give up on ever writing anything again because I will never write as well as this particular author (fortunately, I did not take myself seriously when I had that thought). One description of a minor character was so spot-on that I instantly pictured this person clearly and accurately:
“Howdy, Bartlett,” a feeble voice says. I follow it to the cash register, where Art Baker sits. He’s the kind of seventy-five that acts ninety.
That last sentence was all the description given for the character, and it said nothing about how he actually looked, yet I could see him, probably because I have already seen the kind of person the narrator is referring to.
What this means is that it doesn’t take much to describe a character or get a mental image of him or her. Similarly, this description of the titular character from Lawrence Durrell’s Justine (I think I’ll be quoting from this book often) was just as accurate:
Returning to my room I sit silent, listening to the heavy tone of her scent: a smell perhaps composed of flesh, faeces and herbs, all worked into the dense brocade of her being.
Again, there is nothing about how the character looks, only how she smells, but somehow this description allows me to picture her more clearly and to understand the affection and the lust that the narrator has for her (even though this is not the most conventionally attractive description).
And that leads me into the five senses, which I will post about on Thursday…