Skip to main content

Describing Your Characters' Features and Actions Subtly

We have had some character development posts already here. Narrating your characters is as important as developing them. By narration, we mean describing the character’s appearance, looks, methods, viewpoints, opinions, feelings, etc. It can be difficult to create a full-fledged character without properly describing him.

Don’t Make It Flat

Look at this:
Ben Thompson doesn’t look like a company’s top official. He barely looked his age of 50. He had quite a good-looking face with pointed moustache, staring intelligent eyes, and sharp raised nose. His ears were pointed like those of a cat, giving him the appearance of Dracula.
This narrative of Ben Thompson the central character is completely flat. It is just another description and doesn’t lead you to any interesting fact about this character. When describing your character’s features, you should make sure that it is not a straightforward description of the features.

Show Characters Through Actions

The best way to describe the features of your character is using their actions describe themselves. This way, there is a progress in the story as well as description of characters. For instance:
"He skipped off the gunrest and looked gravely at his watcher, gathering about his legs the loose folds of his gown. The plump shadowed face and sullen oval jowl recalled a prelate, patron of arts in the middle ages. A pleasant smile broke quietly over his lips."

"He looked in Stephen’s face as he spoke. A light wind passed his brow, fanning softly his fair uncombed hair and stirring silver points of anxiety in his eyes."

Two Examples From Ulysses by James Joyce
Ulysses has several places with such beautiful subtle narrations. Reading such great works of fiction alone can guide you well in your character narrations.

In order to display your characters’ thoughts and features, action is the best means. Within your scenes, exploit those points when characters look, speak, listen, move about, etc. Insert pretty descriptions of what sort of eyes he uses to look, what sort of voice he has when speaking, what sort of he has, how he moves about, etc.

With such subtle descriptions, you can easily show a handicapped villain with a grating voice to your readers without ever mentioning: “John was handicapped, with a grating voice.”

In a First Person Point of View

When your POV (Point of View) is first person, which means the central character or someone related to him is narrating the story, descriptions can be hard. Particularly self-descriptions, since that gives the impression of self-importance. In such cases, narration of the features of the central character may be given with the help of other characters within the story. Let the other characters describe the features of the central character through their dialog exchange with him.

Related Entries:

Character Development

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


  1. hi... thanks for visit my blog.. nice blog and success for all activities... please visit to my blog salam Aglaonemaku


Post a Comment

Comments are moderated very strictly

Popular posts from this blog

What Is the Difference Between Hardcover and Paperback?

Today, my reader, Rahman contacted me with a doubt:

Dear Lenin, would you explain why there are two types of books: hardcover and paperback?
This is quite a simple affair and there are explanatory articles to be found at various places on the Net. Here is my addition.


A hardcover aka hardback is a book bound with thick protective cover, with usually a paper or leather dust jacket over the main cover. The aim of hardcover is protection and durability. These books are mainly for long-term use and collectors’ editions. Hardcover books last far longer than the corresponding paperbacks. They do not get damaged easily thus making them perfect for reference guides, great literary works, etc.

In addition, there is a difference in the type of paper used to print hardcover books. The paper used is long-lasting acid-free type. Acid-free paper has a pH value of 7 (neutral) which makes it highly durable. The papers are stitched and glued to the spine.

Hardbacks are prepared for commercial …

En Dash, Em Dash, and Hyphen

We have three types of dashes in use: The hyphen, En Dash, and the Em Dash. In this post, we will see how to use them all correctly.

Hyphen (-)

The hyphen is the minus key in Windows-based keyboards. This is a widely used punctuation mark. Hyphen should not be mistaken for a dash. Dash is different and has different function than a hyphen.

A hyphen is used to separate the words in a compound adjective, verb, or adverb. For instance:

The T-rex has a movement-based vision.
My blog is blogger-powered.
John’s idea was pooh-poohed.

The hyphen can be used generally for all kinds of wordbreaks.

En Dash (–)

En Dash gets its name from its length. It is one ‘N’ long (En is a typographical unit that is almost as wide as 'N'). En Dash is used to express a range of values or a distance:

People of age 55–80 are more prone to hypertension.
Delhi–Sidney flight was late by three hours.

In MS Word, you can put an En Dash either from the menu, clicking Insert->Symbol or by the key-combination, Ctrl + Num…

What Is the Meaning of the Word 'Ghajini'? Story and Trivia of Aamir Khan's New Film [Special]

[Special Entry]

Aamir Khan's latest film is titled a little weirdly for the taste of Hindi filmgoers. 'Ghajini': They have never heard of such a name, and such a word never existed in Hindi or in any other Indian language.

The name Ghajini is the name of the villain of the film. In Tamil version, the name of the villain was Laxman.

As a Tamil moviegoer, I have already watched Ghajini and know the story in full.

So, What Does the Title Mean?

In Tamil, the title of the film is inspired by the story of Mahmud of Ghazni, an ancient invader of India. This person was so persistent in invading India that he continued trying after several failures. In the film too, the protagonist is such persistent in finding out and killing the villain of the film, who had killed his girlfriend, Kalpana (played by Asin). Aamir's Character (named Sanjay Ramaswamy in Tamil), is a short-term amnesiac, who cannot remember anything more than fifteen minutes.

You may ask then how the Ghazni became…