On Saturdays, we at the Write Practice become contrarians. During the week, we talk about lots of helpful and important things to practice in your writing. On Saturdays, we do the opposite.

It’s not that we want you to do things that are unhelpful and unimportant. We just believe sometimes you have to break the best practices to find out what the best practices are.

The Strongest Form of Characterization

Today, we’re going to revisit Monday’s post, The Strongest Form of Characterization.

Orson Scott Card says action is the strongest form of characterization. We form opinions of people based on what they do. If Fred shoots someone, we’re going to think Fred is violent and may have issues controlling his anger. A character is as a character does.

This made me wonder, if action is the strongest form of characterization, then what’s the weakest? Here’s Orson Scott Card on the subject:

Far too many writers—especially beginners—think that a physical description of a character is characterization. If they have a woman stand in front of a mirror and comb her long brown hair with the comb delicately balanced in her slender fingers as she looks into her own flashing brown eyes, such writers think they’ve done the job. [Such] matters as hair color, complexion, eye color, length of the fingers, size of the breasts, or hairiness of the body—those are usually pretty trivial, unless there’s something exceptional about them.

Physical Description

Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer

So Orson says the most obvious parts of your character are actually the least important.

Physical description is boring.

Beauty is only skin deep and should stay that way (ugliness, too).

Don’t dwell on the body.

Today, though, we break rules. Today, we’re only concerned with the most trivial physical characteristics. Today, the least important form of characterization, physical description, is the most important.

PRACTICE

Just like Monday’s exercise, your main character is at a party. Describe your character’s physical features and the features of everyone else there.

Write for fifteen minutes. Post your response in the comments when you’re finished.

And if you post, make sure to comment on a few other posts by others.

Enjoy!

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let’s Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).