Recently I stumbled upon a blog entry by an Editorial Consultant, Pat Holt, that I found interesting and wanted to share. It’s an article of ten common mistakes in writers’ manuscripts that are also easy fixes.
The points in the article are not new, but worth repeating, as writers often miss these errors simply because they are so close to their manuscript. I particularly like Pat’s instruction to “Show, Don’t Tell,” number 8 in her list, as she relates it to describing character. Showing a character through actions and dialog can conjure up images better than actual narrative description.
I am a visual person. As I read, my mind forms an image of each of the characters. The same with writing. In fact, I have pictures of my characters embedded on their character description forms. I visualize the character, his actions, mannerisms, and gestures, which portends the following question.
When is the right time to describe a character?
Is it when the character is first introduced? How much or how little description is ideal? Is it better to offer descriptive pieces throughout a narrative, revealing fragments of the character intermittently? A twitch, inability to make eye-contact, or gnawed-off fingernails speaks volumes, but is it right to deluge all this information in the character’s first appearance?