Sunday, January 17, 2010

HT Write Physical Description

Here at, I'm offering the following as my opinion, which is only a tiny representative sample of the writing advice you can find out there on the worldwide web. Remember, you can take or leave anyone's opinion and experiment with writing however you like.

You're welcome to print out this how-to for your own use, or your critique group's use, or you can link back to this article from your blog, but please don't copy this content to your blog or website.

My Preference. As a reader, I like minimal physical description of main characters because I'd rather imagine them myself. I enjoy quirky and vivid descriptions of the minor characters because they're not as important in that they're not in the story long enough for me to identify with them.

This preference is typical of readers of literary fiction, mainstream fiction, mysteries, and science fiction. Readers of fantasy fiction will want more physical description.

If you're writing romance ( m/m, m/f, or f/f), you need to include a lot of physical description of your main characters because the genre centers on love and sexual attraction. Both males and females in romance fiction tend to be very beautiful and described in great detail. Here at, I've had a lot of trouble trying to remember to do that!

That said, I love descriptions of eye color.

How descriptive you get depends on your genre, but it can also vary based on what else you're trying to do with the description. Descriptions can serve different purposes. I've found some examples for you from fantasy, romance, mystery, and mainstream fiction.

A note on the advice to be found here. It is simply information on techniques that have worked for one published author (me). Only you can decide if my information will be helpful or not helpful to you.

For example, I point out clichés to avoid, and you can decide if you want to use them as they are, avoid them, or improve the terms with additional description. I personally love the cliché "flashing eyes," even though I know it is a cliche. I will go on using it in my writing.

Improving as a writer is all about experimenting. The only "ironclad rules" in writing fiction are the laws of physics and the principles of grammar, and even those can be bent, if you know what you're doing.

Description that gives a basic snapshot.
Some writers, especially those with a cast of hundreds, just want to nail down a few physical traits so that readers can tell their characters apart. The following descriptions are boring and static in my opinion, but they serve their purpose. See how the images are workmanlike, basic, and in my opinion too wordy.

From page 23 of Rhapsody (fantasy fiction) by Elizabeth Haydon: "She had long straight hair with just a hint of a wave to it, and it hung like a silken sheet down her back. In the dark it appeared to be the color of pale flax …Her face was delicately formed, with large, dark eyes fringed with black lashes and an upper lip shaped like a longbow."

From page 3 of The Eye of the World (fantasy fiction) by Robert Jordan: "He was a head taller than his father, taller than anyone else in the district, and had little of [his father] in him physically, except perhaps for a breadth of shoulder. Gray eyes and the reddish tinge to his hair came from his mother …"

From page 15 of A Game of Thrones (fantasy fiction) by George R. R. Martin: "He was big and broad and growing every day, with his mother's coloring, the fair skin, red-brown hair, and blue eyes of the Tullys of Riverrun … Jon's eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost black, but there was little they did not see. He was of an age with Robb, but they did not look alike. Jon was slender where Robb was muscular, dark where Robb was fair, graceful and quick where his half brother was strong and fast."

Description that understates to highlight a particular feature.
Ellen Kushner has a literary style that doesn't overburden us readers with physical description of characters. Like me, she seems fascinated by eye-color. Look at her minimal description of Richard St. Vier, one of the two main characters:

From page 4 of Swordspoint (fantasy fiction) by Ellen Kushner: "He was younger than most of them there; dark-haired, of average height, his face dirty and stubbled."

Later on, we get his eye-color and it remains his most distinctive feature because everything else about him is so understated:

From page 40 of Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner: "The swordsman's eyes were, incongruously, the deep lavender color of spring hyacinths."

Description that conveys personality.
From page 6 of Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner: "Alec dreamily laced his long fingers in his hair. His hair was fine and leaf-brown, worn down his back in the long tail that was the defiant emblem of University scholars … Alec's eyes, turned to the window, were dark and green, like the water under the Bridge."

Along with giving us a physical image, Kushner conveys many intangibles about Alec in that physical description: dreaminess, defiance, scholarliness. He seems refined: fine hair, long fingers, and he's a scholar. But there is also an unsavory quality about him: his eyes are dark and green like water under the Bridge. What lurks under bridges? Moss and slime? Trolls? Highwaymen?

Description that upholds the larger design of the novel.
From page 17 of Kushiel's Dart (fantasy fiction) by Jacqueline Carey: "It is not, of course, that I lacked beauty, even as a babe … My hair, which grew to curl in charming profusion, was the color of sable-in-shadows … My limbs were straight and supple, my bones a marvel of delicate strength … My eyes, when they settled, were that color the poets call bistre, a deep and lustrous darkness, like a forest pool under the shade of ancient oaks."

This description does a lot. At first, you might think that narrator Phaedre is conceited, especially because she's conveying it in first-person viewpoint! If you read the description in context, however, you realize that she's very matter-of-fact because all of her countrymen, the D'Angelines, are known for their supernatural beauty. So the description goes beyond Phaedre and does some world building within the Kushiel series.

Plus, note how ornate the writing is. This tone echoes the dreamy, baroque, feverish experience that is Phaedre's story in the Kushiel books. The experience just wouldn't be possible if it were written in a minimalist way.

From page 207 of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey: "Indeed, there was very little about Joscelin Verreuil that was not beautiful. He had the old-fashioned, noble features of a provincial lord and the somber, ash-grey garb of a Casseline Brother adorned a tall, well-proportioned form, like the statues of the old Hellene athletes. His eyes were a clear blue, the color of a summer sky, and his hair, caught back in a club at the nape of his neck, was the color of a wheatfield at harvesttime."

Just for contrast, the description of Joscelin does nothing for me. The author has missed the mark with this description in a way that she didn't with the gorgeous description of Phaedre (especially Phaedre's eyes). I think it's because he sounds so generic to me: well-formed like a statue, sky-blue eyes, hair the color of wheat. It's nowhere near as striking as Phaedre's description, which set the bar pretty high.

From page 46 of Captain's Surrender (m/m romance fiction) by Alex Beecroft: "The movement took him from deep shadow into lamplight, baring his shirtless skin to Josh's rapt gaze. … Such arms he had, pale and strong, the yellow light pooling in their curves. His long neck and flanks and chest were sleek as cream and scarcely scarred. And his back, the elegant curve of spine brutally cut from waist to shoulders, swollen, bruised, and oozing blood."

This is an amazing description. We've got a leitmotif going here, a theme or image that recurs.

In this case, it's liquid: "pooling in curves" and "sleek as cream" and even "oozing blood." If you can repeat an image this gracefully while managing to vary it slightly like this, it makes for a wonderful reading experience. There is a connectedness and symmetry to a leitmotif that sinks into the reader's subconscious and is immensely appealing.

Apart from the literary creativity going on here, this description conveys something about Peter, the one being described. "Sleek as cream" is the phrase that really grabs me. It's an unusual way to describe a man, but striking. Peter is beautiful, but there is also a connotation of luxury, self-awareness, arrogance, and entitlement to him.

Description that reveals the watcher's personality.
From page 34 of Always (mystery fiction, f/f romance fiction) by Nicola Griffith: "She felt my gaze and looked up. Grey-blue eyes, soft as dove feathers."

From page 39: "She had wide shoulders, a tight waist flaring into rounded hips, and muscles on her fingers and forearms and neck. I guessed her back was also finely muscled, and her legs. It was muscle that comes with intensive training from an early age, the kind a trapeze artist or a free climber or high diver develops."

This is in Aud's first-person viewpoint. She's a martial arts expert and a former cop so she would value strength and physicality. She knows a lot about fitness and how you develop certain muscles.

Plus, she's immediately attracted to this woman, and it comes across in the sensual touches (a tight waist flaring into rounded hips) and in the unusual contrast she points out between the woman's muscled form and her eyes "soft as dove feathers." This description reveals as much or more about Aud as it does the woman being watched.

From page 3 of In the Bleak Midwinter (mystery fiction) by Julia Spencer-Fleming: "She was plain, no makeup and nondescript dark blond hair scraped back in a ponytail. She had that overbred look he associated with rich women from the north side of town: high cheekbones and a long thin nose that was perfect for looking down at folks … Her eyes were the only exceptional thing about her, true hazel, like granite seen under green water."

This is the heroine as seen in third-person viewpoint by the hero. See how unemotional and observant he is. He ticks off characteristics like a cop making a list: blond hair, ponytail, no makeup. In fact, he is the chief of police.

Note the chip on his shoulder against the upper classes: that overbred look, a nose perfect for looking down on folks. Yet, you can tell he's interested in spite of himself (and in spite of how disinterested she is in her own appearance what with her scraping back that ponytail): he takes the time to notice her eyes in detail.

If you guessed that he is from the working class (cop) and from an unsentimental culture (rural Yankee) and that she is more cerebral than appearance-oriented (she's an Episcopal priest), you're right. It all gets conveyed in the type of details he notices and what connotations he gives to those details.

From page 3 of In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming: "He had a fit, outdoors look to him, still slightly tan from last summer, his dark brown hair picked out with gold and copper. She'd have to disagree with Lois, his nose was too big and his lips were too nonexistent to call him handsome. But he looked like a man who had lived comfortably within his skin for the past forty-odd years … His eyes were Fourth-of-July blue, high and bright with the snap of a flag in the wind. But behind them she could see something moving, like pages turning in a book no one was allowed to read."

Okay, this is the hero as seen in third-person viewpoint by the heroine. You definitely get an image of him as an outdoorsy guy. You also get a sense of her trying to mask her interest behind an intellectual sort of detachment: she's just disagreeing with Lois, and of course it was Lois who first brought him up.

Look at what she finds attractive: that he's lived comfortably within his skin for a long while. That's a cerebral, spiritual thing to notice rather than, say, that he has a cute ass. Later we find out that she's an Episcopal priest. She's also intuitive enough to sense his darker side as shown by the last line. With alcoholism and the Vietnam War in his past, he has some shadows on his soul.

Description that reinforces ideology.
I don't usually enjoy being led by the nose, but I love how over-the-top Ayn Rand's descriptions are. You read a physical description and you know immediately whom you're supposed to like and dislike.

Her descriptions are way too heavy-handed for today's readers, but I'm including them so you can see how much mileage she gets out of each description. They're so revealing of personality.

Warning to romance fans: We the Living has a love triangle, but the author is more interested in showing the evils of Communism than to give us an HEA (happily ever after) ending – just so you know.

From page 44 of We the Living (mainstream / literary fiction) by Ayn Rand: "Kira's eyes were dark gray, the gray of storm clouds behind which the sun can be expected at any moment … Kira's mouth was thin, long. When silent, it was cold, indomitable, and men thought of a Valkyrie with lance and winged helmet in the sweep of battle. But a slight movement made a wrinkle in the corners of her lips – and men thought of an imp … Kira's hair was short, thrown back off her forehead, light-rays lost in its tangled mass … a face that had escaped from the easel of a modern artist who had been in a hurry: a face of straight, sharp lines sketched furiously to suggest an unfinished promise."

Kira is a typical headstrong, self-absorbed Ayn Rand heroine. She's striking rather than pretty, and is so involved in her chosen work that she doesn't waste time on primping and dressing up. So she comes across as intense, hasty, unpredictable, independent – and effortlessly beautiful despite, or perhaps because, of her indifference.

The above description of Kira Argounova is fun if you read it in context. She's standing in a barren office in front of a little Communist drone who is writing down her description so that he can issue her the all-important labor book.

He sets down the bare minimum such as "Eyes – Gray" and then the narrative goes into this huge elaboration about "…the gray of storm clouds" et cetera. Ayn Rand is showing us how the Communist bureaucracy squeezes the vitality and heroism out of these larger-than-life individuals.

Here at, I find it hard to believe that the Communists would care enough to have a place on the form for a description of one's "Mouth" (the drone writes down, "Ordinary"), but that's okay. How else are we going to launch into a comparison of Kira with a Valkyrie?

From page 61 of We the Living by Ayn Rand: "He was tall; his collar was raised; a cap was pulled over his eyes. His mouth, calm, severe, contemptuous, was that of an ancient chieftain who could order men to die, and his eyes were such as could watch it."

This is Leo Kovalensky, whom I've got to like because his surname is so close to my own, ha ha! Otherwise, he's your typical Ayn Rand hero who can be summed up in one defining word: arrogant. He's the son of an admiral under the old regime – that is, the imperialists who fought the Reds. Therefore, like many Ayn Rand heroes who defy collective mediocrity with their innate splendor, he's doomed.

Note how minimal his physical description is. He's tall (and presumably not fat) but we have no real idea of his build, hair color, eye color, or even how attractive he is.

What's most important is his individual arrogance. Isn't that an amazing thing to say about a character: "His mouth … was that of an ancient chieftain who could order men to die, and his eyes were such as could watch it."

From pages 74 – 75 of We the Living by Ayn Rand: "… two gray eyes that looked like the eyes of a tamed tiger; but she was not quite sure if it was tamed or not. There were four straight lines on his face: two eyebrows, a mouth and a scar on his right temple … He was tall and young. He wore a cap and a leather jacket. He walked like a soldier, his steps deliberate and very confident."

Here at, I love that description of Andrei Taganov who is not just a Communist, but also a member of the GPU (the secret police). This is the ultimate in a sinister occupation, and yet he is supposed to be a noble man who doesn't fully realize the evil of the system for which he crusades.

He, too, is tall, young, and confident. But he's not completely arrogant. He walks like a soldier, which is manly and all, but also suggests that he, like any soldier, obeys orders.

He has the eyes of a tiger – but possibly a tamed tiger! Poor Andre could've been a real man like Leo if he hadn't had thrown his lot in with those Communists! Just for the record, he's my favorite character in the novel.

Even more fun are Ayn Rand's descriptions of the villains: that is, all the Communists except for Andre who is supposed to be attractive enough to form a love triangle with Kira and Leo.

From page 69 of We the Living by Ayn Rand: "[referring to Comrade Sonia] …short, husky legs and flat, masculine oxfords; a red kerchief tied carelessly over short, straight hair; eyes wide apart in a round, freckled face; thin lips drawn together with so obvious and fierce a determination that they seemed weak; dandruff on the black leather of her shoulders."

Thin, weak lips and dandruff! Ick! No wonder she's a Communist!

From page 70 of We the Living by Ayn Rand: "[referring to Pavel Syerov] A young speaker stood on the platform, rubbing his hands solicitously, like a sales clerk at a counter. His face looked like an advertisement that had stayed in a shop window too long: a little more color was needed to make his hair blond, his eyes blue, his skin healthy. His pale lips made no frame for the dark hole of his mouth …"

The description of Syerov is one of my all-time favorites. "Rubbing his hands solicitously" makes me think of a housefly – how loathsome! And that sun-faded advertisement metaphor conveys weakness, impotence, venality, and mediocrity.

Description that gives pleasure to the reader.

From page 4 of Slave to Sensation (m/f romance fiction) by Nalini Singh: "She had the night-sky eyes of a cardinal Psy – an endless field of black scattered with pinpricks of cold white fire."

From page 6: "She had rich ebony hair that absorbed light like ink and curled so wildly that she was forced to pull it back in a severe plait every morning. Her skin was a dark honey."

From page 4: "Well over six feet tall, he was built like the fighting machine he was in the wild, pure lean muscle and tensile strength. His black hair brushed his shoulders but there was nothing soft about it. Instead, it hinted at unrestrained passion and the dark hunger of the leopard below the skin … Four jagged lines, reminiscent of the claw marks of some great beast, scored the muted gold of his skin [on the right side of his face]. His eyes were a hypnotic green."

From page 26: "In spite of the black pantsuit and stiff white shirt she wore like corporate armor, he could tell her breasts would overflow his hands … The curve of her hip was sensually female, her bottom a heart-shaped enticement."

These descriptions fulfill many different purposes. They reveal personality: the heroine's wild curls tamed into a severe plait, and her voluptuous form hidden in formal clothing. You read this and realize that she's repressed, defensive, and out-of-touch with her own beauty and sensuality.

The descriptions also reveal what's important to the character doing the watching (the hero is having a meltdown over her breasts). Plus, we readers can't help but realize how attractive the hero and heroine are to each other. The pleasure they're taking in each other's appearance is building up reader anticipation for their first sexual encounter.

Beyond all of that, this is a romance novel, and its job is to create a pleasurable sensual and romantic fantasy for the reader. We want the hero and heroine to be not just gorgeous but imbued with strong emotion: passion, or repressed passion, or loneliness, or yearning. Or all of the above!

It is part of the sweeping escapism that readers look for in the romance genre, be it mm or ff or mf. Romance is the genre that will demand the most physical description of your characters.

So what should you do when describing your characters?

Figure out what genre you're writing for.
For literary fiction, mysteries, and science fiction, tradition dictates that you don't describe main characters that much. For erotica, romance, and fantasy fiction, tradition dictates that you describe main characters in detail. Here at, you have to know the traditions before you decide to obey them or break them.

Consider focusing only on one unusual physical feature.
This is what Kushner does with Richard St. Vier. She spotlights his violet eyes and downplays everything else about him. We can guess that he's young and trim since he's a swordsman so she doesn't need to describe him. This descriptive technique is more memorable than flooding us with unnecessary details.

For hair/eye color, reach for an unusual comparison. Look at the Jacqueline Carey excerpts above. Her description of Phaedre's eyes ("a deep and lustrous darkness, like a forest pool under the shade of ancient oaks.") is far superior to her description of Joscelin's eyes ("His eyes were a clear blue, the color of a summer sky"). This is because everybody uses "summer sky"; it's a cliché. Read a lot, and soon you'll see what's overused.

Describe your characters actively, not passively.
Look back at the Haydon, Jordan, and Martin descriptions that give a basic snapshot. See how boring they are? The characters aren't doing anything and so we're getting a mug shot. Now read the Kushner description of Alec who is looking out the window and running his fingers through his hair. See how the words move and give us readers a more vivid mental picture?

Consider focusing only on an overall impression.
What if you just ditched the usual details of hair-color, eye-color, shape of face, and build, and instead showed your character's demeanor, energy, or personality. Look back at Ayn Rand's descriptions.

Kira's description emphasizes her energy and potential: "Kira's hair was short, thrown back off her forehead, light-rays lost in its tangled mass … a face of straight, sharp lines sketched furiously to suggest an unfinished promise."

With Leo, we get even less physical details and even more personality: "His mouth … was that of an ancient chieftain who could order men to die, and his eyes were such as could watch it." We readers are fascinated, and we're going to imagine our own physical details, and therefore Ayn Rand has us more intellectually engaged than if she just gave us a mug-shot description.

Choose physical details that reveal personality.
In whose viewpoint are we when we get a character description? What details attract or repel the watcher? In Nicola Griffith's description of the caterer, you realize that Aud, who is the watcher, really likes muscles.

In Julia Spencer-Fleming's description of Clare, you realize that Russ, who is the watcher, resents the upper class and is unsentimental.

You can also use comparisons as Alex Beecroft does to foreshadow personality to the reader: her character Peter is sleek as cream, and he will turn out to be aristocratic and arrogant.

Kushner hints at Alec's unsavory side when she compares his eyes to dark green water under the bridge. Romance writers can use description to hint at the heroine's degree of repressed sensuality: Look back at how Nalini Singh conveys it with Sascha's hairstyle.

With exception of those writing romance, I hope you'll remember one of my favorite sayings when it comes to description: Less is more! But either way, best of luck to you.

Note: There is more! Because the website traffic is so high on these "how to write" articles, I have expanded two of them from the roughly 2000 words per article that you see on the website/blog to 15,000 words each. I am offering them as Kindle documents on Amazon, if you are interested. Here are the links if you would like to have a look and download a free sample.

How to Write Descriptions of Eyes and Faces
(Just so you know, this 15,000-word book contains the 3651-word Eye Color list from my website plus the 1731-word article How to Describe Eyes, also from my website. The other 9618 words in the book are all-new material.)

How to Write Descriptions of Hair and Skin
(Just so you know, this 14,900 word book contains the 2000-word article HT Describe Hair from my blog plus the 600-word Hair Color list from my website. The other 12,300 words in the book are all-new material.)

Do you not own a Kindle? No problem. You can get a free Kindle app to read Kindle books on your reader of choice, and it is very easy to install. You click the link for the app you want and it practically installs itself. Believe me, if I could do it, anyone can. With the free app, you can read Kindle books on your computer (PC or Mac), iPod, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and Windows Phone 7. Here is the link to all the Kindle reading apps available: all FREE Kindle reading apps located here.

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  1. I do like the less is more school. I've read romances where every feature of the guy is described from hair to the size of his biceps, chest, hips, thighs, calves and down. It's like a running inventory and I found it distracting to try and visualize each part of the description and put it all together. Where if someone said "swimmer's body" or "weight lifter's build" I would be able to instantaneously visualize the person in questions.

    Once in a while I've read a short story were after I was done realized not a single descriptor had been used or either character. You had no clue if they were black or white or green, long hair or short or bald and certainly not the size of their nose or hands. If it's well done you don't miss it until you realize it's not there. However usually I like the basics; height, build, skin tone, hair and eyes. That's enough unless it's relevant in some way to the story.

    You did an amazing amount of research for this. Great job and something to really think about for people writing stories.

  2. Hi, Tam! Thank you so much for your comment.

    " If it's well done you don't miss it until you realize it's not there."

    Absolutely! It's rare, though, that you find this in our m/m romance genre. I run across it in mysteries mostly. I remember reading Michael Connelly's books and thinking that I didn't want to know that Connelly visualizes Harry Bosch as having dark eyes and curly hair. I'd rather form my own impression.

    But for our genre? Remember how I said I'd heard about someone getting a story rejected because she didn't provide enough description of her two romantic leads early enough in the story. I mean, whoa! That's draconian.

    Thanks again for the comment, Tam! You're the best. :)

  3. I'm loving Dash Hammet's description of Sam Spade at the beginning of The Maltese Falcon. "Sam Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chun a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. the v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down--from high flat temples--in a point on his forehead. he looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan."

    Overdescribing will send me into giggles. I had to stop one audiobook after the author topped "limid emerald orbs" with a "midnight cascade."

  4. Hi, Angelia! Argggh, I was almost choking on Hammet's fixation with nostrils and v-shapes and all! And yellow-grey eyes, whoa. I'm picturing a coyote or something.

    I would have loved it if he'd adjusted that last line a bit and just said, "He looked like a pleasant blond satan." I mean THAT alone would have grabbed my interest!

    And that audiobook description sounds like a riot! I'll bet you started snickering at the word "limpid". I would have!

  5. I am teaching myself how to write novels and your information is the best I have come across in all the reasearch I have done. I will be bookmarking and returning time and again to fluff up my lack of romantical descriptions. (joy of writing science fantansy/romance.)

  6. Hi, there! That's so good to hear! Best of luck with your writing. :)

  7. I only came online today to find a decent description of eye colours and I've spent the last few hours reading through everything you've posted! I've tried many a time to write a novel but I reach about ten pages and my interest gets lost and I come up with a new idea which I then begin to write and the same problem continues to occur :/

    I think a major problem I have is that when i come up with an idea, I don't immediately begin writing it up because, for some reason, I'm a fraid to do it and I become majorly distracted. i.e. I give myself 4 hours to write something and I only spend an hour writing. Also, whenever I lie in bed, I develop my story further and, because I delay the writing process, by the time I've done one chapter I have a large amount of ideas. The problem with that is I then get discouraged from writing it when I have a rough idea of an ending because I no longer have the excitement of wondering what happens.

    I hoped that reading through your posts would give me inspirationa and ideas but at the moemnt I just feel depressed because I don't think i could write anything close to as good as what I've read :(

    Okay, so after all this whining, are there any tips someone as great as you could supply...? :D

    P.S. In case you were wondering, I tend, and very much enjoy, to write m/m romance fiction :)

  8. Hi, JD, and thanks so much for the comment! You said, "are there any tips someone as great as you could supply...? :D"

    Ha, ha! You flatter me. :D

    But, seriously, I know what you mean about that dreaded thing where you start beginning after beginning, and it's difficult to finish. Some writers prefer to outline things ahead (I'm one), and some would rather just write whatever comes to mind and make their way to an ending that way.

    But the thing to do is to keep writing no matter what until you have a completed rough draft. And how do you do that -- keep your momentum going and keep it fun? That's a really good question.

    I'm going write an article on it in the next 2 - 3 days to try to answer you because it's such a good question and I think I have a couple of different ideas that might be helpful. So, just keep a watch for that post, if you'd like, and thanks again for your comment/question! (And that's great that you like to write m/m romance fiction!)

  9. Cool, I shall look out for that post :)

  10. I have been researching many different things and come across things that maybe at the time aren’t helpful, but usually once I read or write something I remember it. I read somewhere that a good way to finish what you start or even improve you writing is to do it daily. If you find yourself stuck at a writer’s block in terms of the story, then write on a separate paper why you are blocked. I found that very helpful when I was trying to get my character moved from making herself lunch to the important meeting she had (I didn’t want to just “pull the curtains closed” and have her appear already at the meeting. I wrote in my notebook about why I could not think of how to get her past the kitchen and then several ideas that could work. In the end I used another character to speed the pace and make her want to get to the meeting.
    I hope you can understand what I am trying to explain and that if you choose to try it, it works for you. (I prefer the M/M/F, but Val has the best info I can find so I am sticking with her cause she cool like that)

  11. By the way I am going to look for the post as well.

  12. Hi, Stourmy, these are really good suggestions! Thanks very much for sharing them here. That part about writing on why you're blocked sounds especially good -- you can draw things out that you might not have known, and it also builds up your momentum and gets you writing again!

    Hey, I'm glad you'll look for the post. I'm thinking I'll put it up tomorrow or Monday. :)

  13. Awesome I can't wait.
    If you want to include my suggestions in it you may.

  14. Thanks, Stourmy, I will do that (giving you credit, of course). It might be good to have an article where I can add every good tip I ever hear about! :)

  15. sounds good to me. article's with several inputs are sometimes better than one.

  16. Oh, that's good! Sort of a big tip-pooling resource of knowledge. :)

  17. Wow, I'm an aspiring teenage writer so I see the cliches a lot and was so glad to find a website with creative non-cliched ways of writing descriptions. My lovely male character will no longer have 'Dark jade green eyes, snow fair skin and raven hair' but will instead have 'incandescent, happy eyes, the color of pine needles, a toned, tall frame and dark, hair, soft like coal and skin smooth and pale as fresh cream'. Haha thanks for the help, now my darling Darren won't be a flop!

  18. Oops earlier I meant soft coal-like color. Hehe. For his hair I mean.

  19. Glad I could help. Best of luck with Darren. :)

  20. G'Day Val.

    I had this post pointed out to me by a friend, who like me is starting out writing as more than just a fun activity. So, I have been concentrating on the shorter end of the diction spectrum atm, writing varied types of genres under the Speculative Fiction umbrella.

    Anyway, I never knew just how a slight change in the way a character is described, either by the 'narrator', or by another character, could convey so much detail beyond what was put into words. I have tried to infer most of the details of the character's physical description, letting the reader paint the details themselves. But seeing this post, I can see greater scope for refining my technique.

    I am going to go through your blog, and find your website as well, and see what other pearls of wisdom you have secreted away.

    Finally, thank you for sharing your thoughts, opinions and ideas with the rest of us. So far, it has been a very useful contribution. I hope that you continue to spread your thoughts, ideas and opinions with those of use eager to see what there is that will work for us too.

    BTW, Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year to you and your loved ones as well.

  21. Marauder13, thanks so much for the comment! I'm very glad I could help with these articles. I know what you mean about seeking to refine the writing -- I find it to be a never ending job that always has room for improvement. :) Very best of luck with your writing, and seasons greetings!

  22. I bought both your books on Amazon Kindle regarding descriptions of eyes and skin. Wonderful!

    Here's an exercise (that I will excel at more now that I have your two books on description). I watch a movie or TV show with the captions on. There's the dialogue. Now how to describe what the actors gestures and facial expressions. Awgggh! I'd mimick the actor and say "How do I describe the action?" Turning description into dialogue-sometimes makes me see when its too much. But I do like a little more description than some readers or writers. I, too, love Michael Connelly--and Louis Lamore. Zane Grey used too much description for me--anyway, congratulations on your phrases and descriptions books!

  23. Gwen, thank you so much! And I like your idea very much about studying the captioned dialog along with the facial expressions on tv. It makes sense that if you put both types of information to visual (with the dialog going to caption), you could absorb much more info than if you were splitting your attention between listening and looking. Very interesting idea!

  24. My main character is a depressed teenage girl without hope. She is described by the other main lead, a boy hopelessly intoxicated with her. I wanted to portray her as a thinker. I deep minded soul with questions and doubts. I want her to be seen as intelligent from the beginning, and have that foreshadow into her actions later on in the story. I described it like this- "
    Her eyes were like ice. Not a hard, cold crystal though. It made her look elegant, with a glow of mischief that made you feel like you wanted to break all the rules. Shards of silver slashed through the blue like glass.

    They we almost transparent. As if I could see through her eyes and see the gears of her brain turning. Like a window into her mind.
    Layers of dark eyeliner and mascara the defined the color even further, like soot around a gemstone."

    I'd love some feedback. I'm worried about being too cliche, but I want the description to be very descriptive. Thank you so much! Loved the article- very helpful.

  25. Jennifer, I like it! It is true that it is an elaborate description but that's okay because it is in the viewpoint of a boy who is hopelessly intoxicated with her, and it's realistic that he would take a long look at her and see all these things about her eyes.

    I don't think the description is clichéd. If you wanted to improve it, you would only have to trim out some of the non-essential words and tighten the whole thing and make it really succinct like poetry.

    For example, you could delete the sentence, "Not a hard, cold crystal though," because the glow of mischief you mention in the next sentence softens her appearance and takes away any perceived hardness as it is. The sentence Shards of silver slashed through the blue like glass is beautiful.

    I would suggest changing "They were almost transparent" to "Her eyes were almost transparent" because with this sentence following the shards-of-silver sentence, the pronoun "they" seems to stand for the shards rather than the eyes. This fix is just to clarify.

    I am definitely getting an impression of your character as a thinker with your allusions to gears of the brain and window to the mind. You have a fine instinct for similes and connotations. The main connotations I am getting about the female character is that she is good-looking and seems cold and reserved at first, and even intimidating (because of all the hard-edged imagery involving ice, shards, silver, slashed, glass), but the glow of mischief shows her true nature. Perhaps her depression is giving her a cold veneer, but the narrator can restore her to her true self through the power of love. :) I think my favorite part is dark eyeliner and mascara ... like soot around a gemstone.


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