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Elizabeth Berg demystifies how to describe characters

I love it when writers describe characters in a way that I can really see them, beyond eye and hair color. The trick is how to describe a character that gets into the essential details of the person.

Elizabeth Berg demystifies how to describe characters, using interesting details, in “Escaping into the Open,” The Art of Writing True, page 91:

Whether you’re writing fiction or  nonfiction, you can greatly help define a character by sharing not only what he says and does, but also how he looks. Again, details matter. don’t tell the reader that someone is old; show it by describing the dime-size age spots, the sag of the cheeks, the see-through hair, the spiderlike spread of veins at the back of the knees. Are nylons falling down? Are belts too big? Are there greasy thumbprints on the lenses of bifocals? Is the posture stopped or stubbornly erect? Is there a periodic squeal from a hearing aid? What does he eat for breakfast? How does she speak on the phone? Do medication bottles rattle in his front pocket? Does she keep nitro-glycerin in a silver monogrammed case?

Your Turn:  Write a character sketch. Write so that readers can hear, see, smell, feel your character.

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