If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found yourself shaking a menacing fist at the reader who has no criticism of a piece of writing (yours or another’s, it’s equally infuriating) beyond that ever-so-overused adage, “Show, don’t tell.” After a while of hearing this with no explanation, my response became, “Really? OK, I’ll just do that. Or better yet, how about you show me how to do that instead of just telling me to do it?” Dirty hypocrites.
Well, I just found a great article on exactly that: creating compelling characters through description. This fellow actually goes into specifics, and even goes a little further. The article is all about telling a story through description, rather than flatly describing what something or someone looks like. More importantly, it’s about making the reader ask questions, which is the first step to a reader giving a crap and getting involved with the characters.
And he gives examples. You know it’s a sure sign that the advice is sound when even the examples given fill you with terror, or make you bust a gut laughing, or make you waggle your eyebrows suggestively. And that’s why you should go read this article at LitReactor.
“If people don’t care about your protagonist, about the cast of people you parade in front of them, then you will never get them to respond, no matter what your goal is.”
The author’s column, Storyville, is great for general writing tips and practices. Check it out.