Are the Characters in Your Story Clothes-Minded?
Of the two following character descriptions in a story, which gives you more insight into the character’s personality:
Description One: ’Derek is in his mid-20s, with long, curly hair. He has a slender build, is 6’ 2” tall and has a deep, raspy voice.’
Description Two: ‘Derek cautiously looked around before opening the door that led to the party. His long, dark hair hung over his eyes. He wore a wrinkled, red flannel shirt untucked from his loose fitting jeans that had holes in the knees. His fluorescent green gym shoes were untied, and had seen better days. He quietly walked toward the food table, avoiding eye contact with other guests.’
Remember, the question was, “Which gives insight into his character?” It wasn’t, “Which description gives you better insight into what the character looks like?”
This question stems from a concept I learned from master story teller Michael Hauge. He is a one of the best and most sought after screen writers in Hollywood. Michael points out that many writers, storytellers and speakers attempt to create a connection with characters by giving a physical description of those people. Although this helps you ‘see’ them, does it offer insight into how s/he thinks, feels, or acts?
Mr. Hauge points out that describing a character’s clothes and how s/he enters a room gives insight into that individual’s personality. Physical description is one-dimensional. Describing the way the person dresses or enters a room is multi-dimensional.
In the example above, what conclusions can you make about Derek? Cautiously entering a room, hair covering his eyes, and not making eye contact tells you he’s probably shy, introverted, or socially awkward. What other characteristics could it reveal?
His wrinkled, untucked shirt, ’holy’ jeans and worn out shoes tells you he’s not too concerned about fashion – perhaps he’s making a statement.
These are just two of many insights you can garner from a quick description. Note that these are not long, drawn-out explanations. Remember, you’re giving a speech, not writing a novel. In two or three sentences, you can give the listener enough of a picture that flavors the personality of each character, and allows them to complete the picture of each person. This allows audience members to feel more like they are in the story
If you want your stories to stand out, use the writing secret of a Hollywood master. Make your characters more ‘clothes-minded’ and you’ll create vivid descriptions that leave your audience wanting more.
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