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Bob Nailor

Character Details

Rodney walked into the room. He was tall, dark-haired, wearing a blue shirt and black slacks. The gold ring on his right hand glistened with a diamond. His blue eyes glanced about. Victoria liked what she saw.

Wasn't that an exciting description? How many writers will scribe those sentences to reveal a character. I would call that every newbie's fatal first mistake. Some may even give a more detailed report with—

Rodney walked into the room. His blue eyes scanned the room. Standing over six foot, his dark-brown wavy brown hair was impeccably combed. The blue shirt was tight and revealed his rippling muscles. The black jeans were Western cut and fit like a glove. He wore custom cowboy boots. A diamond glittered in the gold ring on his right hand. Victoria smiled, she liked what she saw.

Another attempt at a feeble blow-by-blow description. Why not make the descriptive detail a part of the story rather than a boring itemized list?

Rodney strolled into the room, his piercing ice-blue eyes locating the bar. Victoria noticed him immediately since he stood above the others in the crowd. Party revelers parted as he made his way toward his goal where Victoria sat. She couldn't help noticing the blue shirt, top two buttons undone to reveal rippling tanned muscles. The silver buckle swayed with each swagger, mesmerizing her. His black jeans hugged his hips and legs down to the custom cowboy boots. Her breath caught—Was that a diamond wedding band? Victoria exhaled. It was the right hand, the ring was just a diamond ring. Victoria glanced once more at the total package walking toward her. He'd made his entrance and now it was her turn.

By using another character to reveal the details, the reader can get a better understanding the two characters. Above, Rodney has a swagger, is definitely proud of his physique and wants people to notice him. They do, they separate like the Red Sea before him as he moves through the crowd. At the same time, Victoria is letting us see him in her eyes and how he affects her and how she has already decided that she is on the hunt and found her quarry.

Surprisingly, locales are characters, too. A reader hates to peruse the travelogue blurb about the scenery, to wit:

Grace peered out the window at the snow-capped mountains of the Rockies. The highway was busy as the truck went up the slope toward the ski lodge. It was summer and the crystal-clear blue waters of the lake reflected the distant mountains.

Now wasn't that just exciting?

Grace jammed the clutch down and shifted into a lower gear as the truck slowly churned its way up the highway toward the ski lodge. She didn't have time to enjoy the beauty of the snow-capped mountain tops nor the breath-taking view of the crystal-clear blue lake just over the edge. Grace exhaled slowly, very glad it was summer and she didn't have to also fight snow, ice and wintry blasts to keep the truck moving forward. Her eyes flicked to the lake and for a mere second, enjoyed the mirrored distant mountains.

Again, using a character to give us the details involves us in the story. Consider the positive side to this method: Upped word count. Did you notice that the final version usually involved more words. It isn't fluffing the story by any means. A good writer involves the reader. If the reader wanted a grocery list of details, there are other avenues for that potential. I call it an outline.

When I outline my character, I use short details—almost like the very first paragraph which would have read: Name-Rodney, 6 ft tall, blue eyes, dark-brown hair, blue shirt, black jeans, cowboy boots, diamond ring. Struts and swaggers when walking. Almost reads like the first paragraph.

Give the reader the details but impart them in a subtle method. Like we are constantly being told: Show, don't tell.

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onisha Ellis
You make it sound so simple!
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Elyse Salpeter
I am going to cry - I do these horrible mistakes all the time - especially in my first drafts. I don't know why and I need to edit and get hit upside the head to stop these ridiculous descriptions. Excellent post and reminder - love the way you upped the ante for each example - they are so much stronger.
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Luann Robinson Hull
Fabulous post Bob! I love how you illustrate the various ways to improve on writing with the same goal! Thank you!
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Lisa Jey Davis
I love your posts Bob! Such great examples for would-be writers (and established ones) - thanks! I'm sharing this!
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