Details Make Your Characters Interesting
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WORD COUNT. If you signed an exclusive contract, every word counts. You want to bag a signing bonus, achieve the Monthly Attendance Bonus, and hopefully maximize the Completion Bonus.
If you're an underwriter, struggling with your ten-hour grind, <1000 words chapter...
This one's for you...
Tip No. 01: Where are the characters?
Your characters aren't floating in space. They're walking on planet Earth, running off to the airport to get back the love of their life, or are digging for buried tombs somewhere in Egypt. Wherever they are, include descriptions. These can be solid descriptions of the setting, the character interacting with their environment, or a combination of both.
Don't just tell the reader your character is inside a cave. Create an image of it in their head.
*For the examples, we'll be comparing a first attempt to a second attempt, wherein the mentioned tips are applied on the latter. Notice that the first ones are lacking in description and are lower in word count.
Near the balcony of a bedroom, sitting on a comfy chair, Kate found herself staring at the blurred reflection of herself on the window that was made of glass.
Palm leaves swung as a chilly late afternoon breeze carried the scent of the ocean past the open balcony of her bedroom. It fluttered the white lace curtains that framed the double French doors, and blew at the edges of her silk nightgown.
Kate sat on one end of a Cabriole sofa, the plush cream-colored pillows supporting her back. She found herself staring at her blurred reflection on a frosted glass window that faced her.
Tip No. 02: Who are the characters?
Describe what the characters look like.
This highly depends on your preference. You might prefer to describe every feature of their physical appearance including their clothing. You might prefer to use little descriptions on their appearance and instead focus on their actions to give the reader an idea on what the character looks like. Whatever your preference is, your readers have no idea what the characters look like unless you share details with them.
Kate had freckles in her cheeks and a cigarette between her fingers. She was aware that she was destroying herself. Nevertheless, she kept smoking, until the light came on, shining over her.
Kate could make out the freckles that dusted her cheeks and the cigarette that emitted smoke between her long fingers that were painted with chipped nail polish. A layer of dichotomy slowly encapsulated her vaguely, as she realized she was destroying her pathetic life by doing what she was not supposed to do. She took a long drag of the cigarette, her chest expanding as the chemical deposits filled her lungs. Then she tilted her head and blew smoke at the non-existent stars.
As she was about to repeat the same process, the moment the cigarette reached her cherry-red lips, the LED light of the room flickered into life and gleamed on her red hair.
"Kate, you shouldn't be doing this. The doctor said you can't smoke, or your lung cancer will worsen," her twin sister nagged.
"Kate, you shouldn't be doing this. The doctor said you can't smoke, or your lung cancer will worsen."
The woman's voice was laced with worry that almost made her scoff. If she were someone else, Kate would've been surprised. But the truth was that she wasn't. The healthy woman that stood behind her was a perfect reflection of her former physical self – a clear glass mirror that she often darted her eyes from.
If the constant reminder wasn't enough, Kaitlyn's nagging was getting worse day by day just like her health condition.
Tip 03: How are the characters?
Your characters go through drama. They're people. They have emotions and thoughts. It's what makes them relatable and interesting. No matter the narrative perspective you use, incorporate these into the narrative or dialogue.
"I am dying anyway, Kaitlyn. Let me do what I love doing."
There was no point in stopping now. Kate Middleton – her public personality was a façade that hid the truth of a fake smile. Her awards were meaningless. No money in the world could ever save her.
"Kate, please. Listen to me," Kaitlyn begged. It was a futile attempt.
"That's no longer my name, Kate."
"I am dying anyway, Kaitlyn. Let me do what I love doing." Her response was sharper than she would have preferred. Kate knew her sister was looking out for her, but it didn't matter now.
Kaitlyn clenched her hands into fists. She knew arguing with Kate was futile anyway.
The truth was in the eyes of the public. Everything that the media reported about her was a lie - money altered her public identity into someone she would have wanted to be but wasn't even an inch of that person.
Kate Middleton was a superstar who made her name from scratch and by the age of twenty-six, she was already the boss of her successful line of makeup brands. She even won an Oscar on her last movie, "Till Death Do Us Apart."
Known only to the twins, Kate loathed her public personality. It was fake, just like her smile that dazzled the cameras.
"Kate, please, for my sake. Don't smoke, sister."
Smoke curled from her lips as she exhaled, lying down on her back with the ashes of the burnt end falling into the Persian carpet. "Don't forget that you are Kate now, and I am Kaitlyn, Kate's sister."
The woman behind her closed her eyes to suppress the hollowness within.
** Utilize the five senses. Describe what they're seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, and feeling.
The minute details makes your characters interesting AND increases word count.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.
Don't add too much! Remember to keep the flow of the story going. Overload on descriptions and it'll slow down the pace. A slow pace will bore readers... and you.
ADD IT TO ADD FLAVOR.
Do they have quirks? An interesting physical trait that makes them stand out? Is there a certain trauma that keeps haunting them? Let the readers know.
No one has to know every brand, and the application process of make-up products and lotions. Or how your character washes their clothes. Unless you're doing a commercial, I guess...