As a teacher, I often teach creative writing. Some of my best posts are here. This one’s just for you:
Creating character is really tricky. For a novel, you don’t want to dump too much information in one go. Description needs to be blended into events, character reactions and body language. But for a short piece of creative writing, it can be really fun to write a description of someone you know. Again, try to keep it moving. Here’s one I did about my son.
His hair is the colour of wet sand when the tide’s just gone out, his eyes blue, not wildflowers, or melted ice, but deep and dark as the dog days of summer. His milky skin is dotted with tiny specks of freckles, imperfect, so perfectly new.
When we stand together he’s almost as tall as me, his eyes level with the middle of my nose. He bounces at me and suddenly we’re wrestling. A pink strip flashes across his cheeks. He fiercely wants to beat me, lift me like I used to lift him. For a second, I’m hovering ten centimetres in the air. Then we both fall over, laughing in the cushions.
His new favourite thing is bowling, overarm. We practised together, throwing ball after ball after ball and he’d bounce them off my shoulder, my head, my nose, at first. We squint into the sloping summer light, dipping late in the evening, still until gradually he begins to hit the wicket. Every time. It feels good.
For the minor characters, I used details to set the tone. Here are clips which I literally dropped in during one edit designed to bring the minor characters into sharper focus.
MISS FOGG has:
a weird violet scar like a half moon on her collarbone. I can’t stop staring at it, under her fingers, twitching at the chunky necklace she’s put over it. Does this mean she’s a villain, if she’s got a scar? But she doesn’t feel like a villain.
I wonder who cut her.
Pam has a face like a pudding and a long brown skirt and comes from Social Services. She sat very straight, perched on the edge of the bright green sofa Bobs hauled out of the Scrub. Pam has velcro sandals with skin-colour tights which wouldn’t be such a big problem if Eris could stop staring at her toes.
For other characters like Mrs Hale and Mr Fairs, I went mad with similes and hyperbole. Here are some for MRS HALE:
Mrs Hale paced the room, a fat ship in full sail. (metaphor)
Mrs Hale is one of the angry moons of Jupiter. (metaphor)
she turned on me like an angry flower-pattern death planet with laser beam eyes (simile)
Mr Fairs has a bit of a look of an angry orang-utan that likes to smash things and jump on the bits. (simile)
Mr Fairs is a PE teacher, as well as a psychopath. (hyperbole)
You might have noticed, I like odd details! It isn’t always necessary to describe a character’s appearance in complete detail.
If you write your own characters (including characters from this book), please do share. If you don’t like writing, you can draw them, photograph or scan and send to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to see how you see them!