Friday, January 15, 2010

The Name’s Hayes. Channing Hayes.

Right now, I'm compiling the "bible" for my Channing Hayes series. (The first book, THE LAST LAFF, is complete, and I've started outlining the sequel.)

file folder1 As part of the process, I'm putting together a "dossier" for all the characters--their habits, their histories, their fears and dreams, their favorite breakfast cereal. And what they look like. That's a tough area for me. You see, I'm not one who needs to know every detail about a character's physical description. I don't particularly like reading it, and I don't particularly like writing it. I prefer to keep it short and let the reader fill in the blanks.

Here are a few examples:

Wispy hair swirled on the skinny guy’s head like a soft-serve ice cream cone, and the pupils of his eyes seemed to move independently of each other. Woody Allen had nothing on this guy in the nebbish department.


Ty stood six-six and weighed two-seventy-five, with an androgynously beautiful face perched atop a body carved from a single slab of ebony granite. No seams or cracks anywhere. He looked like he’d started lifting weights when he was seven and hadn’t stopped.


Dressed in a flowing red and silver caftan, with her sultry complexion and dark flowing hair, Erin reminded me of some exotic Persian princess. She invited me in, only to break the fairy tale illusion when she blew a pink bubble-gum bubble and popped it on her lips.

How about you? Are you a MORE or a LESS person when it comes to a character's physical description?



Anonymous said...

Alan - I guess I'd say I'm more of a "less" person - at least at this point in my series. Not only am I still developing the characters, but I am hoping to have their backstories unfold. I don't know if that will work, but at least I have a semi-logical rationale : ).

Helen Ginger said...

I'm probably a "less" person. Dribble pieces of description here and there and let the reader develop their own vision.

Straight From Hel

Jenna said...

Sadly, I'm more of a more. I see them so clearly in my head that I can't help describing them in too much detail. But at least I start out that way! A personal pet peeve is when I get to know a character in someone else's book, and I develop a picture of them, and then two books into the series, there's a description that doesn't match mine.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Put me in the less camp for sure. This, more-or-less question is always a tough one. How much paint to put on the canvas in descriptive text? I'm like you, I don't particularly like to read it, so, I do the minimum when I have to write it. Surprisingly, at least to me, I've had a few readers say they like lots of detail.

Best Wishes Galen.
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like yours!

I don't write much description. In fact, that's a frequent editorial complaint...they mark spots in my manuscripts where they want more of it. I do better filling description in on demand, instead of providing it upfront.

Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Dorte H said...

Less! I only describe people when I feel it is absolutely necessary so I wouldn´t be able to describe any of my characters in detail. I prefer indicating what they are like in a few strokes, and the readers of my flash fiction seem to be able to relate to my characters.

Elspeth Futcher said...

Write the dossier for yourself. Put in way too much information. Some of it you'll use, some you won't but at least it's all there to refer to. It's very very useful for avoiding continuity errors.


Alan Orloff said...

Margot - Semi-logic is more logic than many people employ. Good luck!

Helen - I think "dribble" is a good way to think about it!

Jennie - You are the contrarian here! I know what you mean about getting a picture of someone in your head. I hate it when I go to a movie (or watch TV), and some character from a book looks completely unlike my mental picture. Throws me off.

Galen - Don't pay any attention to your readers. What do they know? (To MY readers: I'm just kidding.)

Elizabeth - That's a good strategy. Only write stuff on demand. I wish I could get away with that. I guess you have more pull :)

Dorte - I guess being descriptive in few words is a good skill to have when writing flash fiction!

Elspeth - That's a good tip, dossier-wise. Most of the jokes I write are for myself too. (At least someone thinks they're funny.)

Lorel Clayton said...

I like as little description as possible and prefer to focus on the unusual bits. Like: "His small eyes peered over a huge moustache."
But I love your soft-serve ice cream hair! And a bible or dossier is a great idea. I need to do one for my current wip. I keep forgetting the secondary characters names let alone what they look like.

Terry Odell said...

Definitely a "less" person. And I really don't like it when an author compares a character to a real person (usually an actor). With my 1 movie a year and hardly any TV, I'm not going to make the connection. And why let someone else do your work. Give me broad brushstrokes, and I'll be happy to fill in the rest.