Fresh, Fresh, Fresh Character Descriptions!

We’re so happy to welcome Margie Lawson today to share her writing wonderment with us. Margie will be speaking at the RWA National Conference in Anaheim next month, both at the Women’s Fiction pre-conference event and a session at the conference. Generous as ever, Margie is donating a lecture packet or a free class to one lucky reader who comments today. As if her information about writing fresh character descriptions weren’t enough!

by Margie Lawson

Lovey hugs to Fae for inviting me to be her guest blogger today!

Note: Part of this blog is recycled from one I wrote last year. New material was added!

Writers often miss opportunities to WOW their readers. One way to WOW them is to write character descriptions that are fresh. Not just a fresh word. A fresh style. A fresh delivery.

Most writers describe a character’s physical attributes. Hair color. Hair style, Eye color. Height. Physique. Some authors slip in a personality trait. Always good.

Some character descriptions read like the writer is checking that item off their list. Nothing special. Nothing fresh.

There are a gazillion ways writers can describe characters. They can share several traits or just a few. Some authors weave character descriptions into the scene. They slip in traits across several paragraphs. They may add a few more descriptive details as the scene unfolds. Others prefer a few salient points and they’re done.

Some writers follow Stephen King’s advice. They provide a couple of fresh descriptors and let the reader fill in the rest.

In Stephen King’s words, from ON WRITING:

“Thin description leaves the reader feeling bewildered and nearsighted. Over description buries him or her in details and images. The trick is to find a happy medium. It’s also important to know what to describe and what can be left alone while you get on with your main job, which is telling a story.

I’m not particularly keen on writing which exhaustively describes the physical characteristics of the people in the story and what they’re wearing (I find wardrobe inventory particularly irritating; if I want to read descriptions of clothes, I can always get a J. Crew catalogue). I can’t remember many cases where I felt I had to describe what the people in a story of mine looked like—I’d rather let the reader supply the faces, the builds, and the clothing as well. If I tell you that Carrie White is a high school outcast with a bad complexion and a fashion-victim wardrobe, I think you can do the rest, can’t you? I don’t need to give you a pimple-by-pimple, skirt-by-skirt rundown. We all remember one or more high school losers, after all; if I describe mine, it freezes out yours, and I lose a little of the bond of understanding I want to forge between us. Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

Stephen King is a master of writing craft. Consider his suggestions, and write your character descriptions the way that works best for you and your readers.

I’ll share some examples of character descriptions for your reading and analysis pleasure.

Lara Chapman is a 2012 RITA Nominee for her Y.A., Flawless. Lara is a Margie Grad and Immersion Master Class grad too.

“The once-buzzing classroom freezes. Standing in the doorway is the hottest guy I’ve ever laid eyes on. Golden brown hair cut just short enough to be stylish and a body I’ve only seen on television. Honest to God, the room has fallen dead silent while he looks at his schedule and compares it to the number on the door.

You can almost hear every girl’s thoughts.

Please be in this class.

Please take me to the prom.

Please marry me.

And every guy’s thoughts.

I hope he plays football.

I hope he plays baseball.

I hope he’s got a girlfriend and leaves mine alone.

When he looks up and finds everyone staring, he glances behind himself to see what they’re looking at. Realizing he’s the center of attention, he smiles, upping the charm of his rugged good looks when his slightly imperfect teeth are revealed.”

Elizabeth Essex is a 2012 RITA Nominee for her historical, ALMOST A SCANDAL. Elizabeth is a Margie grad and Immersion Master Class grad too.

“He had been eighteen years old and on the verge of taking his lieutenant’s exam the last time she had seen him, the summer her brother Matthew had brought him home to Falmouth.  Col, they had called him.  Six years ago, he had been long and lean, but by God, clad in the endless fall of his gray sea cloak, he was a leviathan now.  A great oaken mast of a man looming up from the waist of the small boat.

A man grown.  A man whose jaw looked as sharp as an axe blade and whose piercing eyes, the color of green chalcedony stone, were just as hard and impenetrable.

“Well, Kent?”  Col’s voice was low and dangerously soft—disconcerting in such a hard-looking man.  “What’s it to be?”

Darynda Jones is a 2012 RITA Nominee for her paranormal, Third Grave Dead Ahead. Darynda is a Margie grad too.

Example 1:

“I turned as Dad walked in. He’d come up from the bar by way of the inside stairs, which was fine, since he owned it and all. His tall, thin frame seemed to sag just a bit. His blond hair looked barely combed, and his bloodshot eyes were lined with a purplish hue. And not a pretty purple either. It was that dark grayish purple that depressed people wear.”

Example 2:

“Well built with shoulder- length brown hair intermingled with a streak or two of gray, a long mustache and goatee, and a strip of leather around his neck with a silver pendant, Farley proved to be one of those men in his late fifties who only looked in his late fifties up close.”

Kristina McMorris, LETTERS FROM HOME, Margie grad

Here are two weave-in-description examples from LETTERS FROM HOME, released March, 2011, a debut novel by award-winning author Kristina McMorris. 

Reader’s Digest Select Editions features a condensed, book club version of LETTERS FROM HOME.

“With Morgan’s charcoal black hair and olive complexion, she questioned if he and the fair-skinned knucklehead were actually brothers.

“Evening,” Morgan said, the word barely audible. A fitted service shirt outlined his broad build. His facial features were of the average sort, but he had an allure about him, an unnamable quality Liz couldn’t dismiss.”

Shirley Jump, HOW TO LASSO A COWBOY – Bestseller Shirley Jump has 35 (or more) books published. Knowing Shirley, she probably has ten more novels  contracted.

Shirley Jump is a Margie Grad. 

“Mr. Jones,” Sophie Watson called to him from two houses down, her blond hair back in a loose ponytail, swinging along her shoulders.

Skipped a few sentences.

In those early morning moments, Harlan hadn’t done much more than say hello as he passed by. Sophie had seemed nice, friendly even, the first few times he’d encountered her. She was a beautiful woman, too, with delicate features and a penchant for skirts.

A few paragraphs later:

She’d kept coming as she’d talked and now she stood at the end of his walkway, that one hand on a hip that was cocked a little to the side, giving her a jaunty air. Coupled with the knee-length flouncy skirt she wore and the low-heels that gave her legs a sweet curve, it made a pretty picture, he had to admit.

Margaret Daley, TRAIL OF LIES. Last year, bestselling author Margaret Daley had 65 books published. She could have hit 70 by now. 

Margaret Daley is a Margie Grad.

“He’d seen Melora Hudson, the widow, at her husband’s funeral a couple of days before. A picture of a five-foot, six-inch, willowy woman materialized in his mind. While she’d stood at the gravesite, her red hair with golden highlights had caught the sun’s rays, accentuating the long curls about her beautiful face-a solemn face, appropriate for a funeral. Until he’d locked gazes with her for a few seconds and something akin to fear had flashed into her sea-green eyes.”

Jaye Wells, GREEN-EYED DEMON. This is the third book in the Sabina Kane series. Silver-Eyed Devil will be released January 1st, 2012.

Jaye Wells is a Margie Grad.

“A mop of kinky mahogany curls cleared the top of the door. And below, a foot clad in a low-heeled black pump stepped onto the blacktop, followed by its twin. Next, a slender, milky hand with bloodied cuticles grasped the doorframe.

When the face came into view, my stomach dipped with dread. Persophone’s classically beautiful face didn’t feature a roman nose, two beady black eyes, or a butt-cleft shin. No, only one Domina was cursed with such mannish features.

Tanith.”

Tana French, THE LIKENESS.

The last example is from award-winning author and stage actress in Ireland, Tana French. THE LIKENESS is her second novel.

This is one of my top-of-the-list character descriptions

“I’d been expecting someone so nondescript he was practically invisible, maybe the Cancer Man from The X Files, but this guy had rough, blunt features and wide blue eyes, and the kind of presence that leaves heat streaks on the air where he’s been.”

Here’s a Deep Editing Analysis of the example from Tana French in THE LIKENESS.

1. Fresh Writing:  “ . . . the kind of presence that leaves heat streaks on the air where he’s been.”

2. Contrasted what she expected with what presented

3. Rhetorical Device, Allusion, twice: Cancer Man and The X Files

4. Rhetorical Device, Parallelism: “. . . rough, blunt features and wide blue eyes . . .”

5. Cadence-driven:  Every word drives the reader into the next word. Read it out loud. You’ll train your Cadence Ear.

Six more words from Stephen King, from ON WRITING:

Good description is a learned skill . . .

FYI:  My writing craft courses are loaded with material that teaches writers how to write fresh.

Writing fresh description, for characters and setting, gives your readers color and style and interest. Writing fresh description immerses your reader in the sensory elements of your story. Writing fresh description contributes to making your novel a page turner.

BLOG GUESTS:  NOW IT’S YOUR TURN! 

POST A COMMENT AND YOU MAY WIN a Lecture Packet  or one of my online courses from Lawson Writer’s Academy!

I’ll post the name of the LUCKY WINNER on SUNDAY NIGHT, 9PM Mountain Time.

1. Post a comment – or just say “Hi Margie!”

Or

2. Post an example of a fresh character description from your WIP or a fresh character description from one of your favorite authors.

Or

3. Analyze one of the examples from the blog, all but the one I analyzed.  ;-)

Post anything — and you could win a Lecture Packet or an online course from Lawson Writer’s Academy.

Lawson Writer’s Academy now has 37 courses and 12 instructors. LWA courses are taught in a cyber classroom from my website, http://www.MargieLawson.com.

Margie Lawson —psychotherapist, editor, and international presenter—developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques used by writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.

Thousands of writers have learned Margie’s psychologically-based deep editing material. In the last seven years, she presented over sixty full day Master Classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

For more information on Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, full day master classes, and the 4-day Immersion Master Class sessions offered in Margie’s Colorado mountain-top home, visit:  www.MargieLawson.com.

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108 Responses to Fresh, Fresh, Fresh Character Descriptions!

  1. Liz Flaherty says:

    Hi, Margie. I love this! This is Steven, the hero from my MIP.

    Steven Elliot didn’t lose many patients, especially young ones. This was why, in addition to “gifted young surgeon,” the term “miracle worker” got bandied about in journalistic circles. So did “sexy blond ponytail,” “sexy dark eyes,” and “sexy lean build,” but those were downright embarrassing, so he tried not to give them too much thought. Usually.

    I hope I win this–I could use a bump! Thanks.

    • Liz –

      Love your sexy character description! Well written. You used the rhetorical device, anaphora, to emphasize sexy. Anaphora also gave your paragraph a cadence boost. Always good!

      One thought keeps gnawing and gnawing my brain cells. I’ll share this idea. Feel free to ignore it.

      Strunk & White — recommends not spotlighting special words with quotation marks.

      Here’s how your paragraph would look without the quotation marks.

      Steven Elliot didn’t lose many patients, especially young ones. This was why, in addition to gifted young surgeon, the term, miracle worker, got bandied about in journalistic circles. So did sexy blond ponytail, sexy dark eyes, and sexy lean build. But those were downright embarrassing, so he tried not to give them too much thought. Usually.

      I prefer the cleaner looking version. But you’ll see quotation marks used to set apart special words and phrases. Again, feel free to ignore my comments.

      Did you notice I broke your last sentence into two sentences? Tenth grade English teachers may not like the way I started the last sentence. But I like it. ;-)

      Thanks for posting!

  2. Laura Drake says:

    Oh Margie, I’m so proud when I open my email to find you in it! Great examples! I agree with King – I like to give someone a flavor of the character, rather than a description (much harder to write fresh!) Here’s a description from my novel that will be out in 2013, Total Bull (It’s also the one we worked on at Immersion class!) See you soon, Margie!

    Max Jameson twisted the cowboy hat in his hands and lowered his eyes to the body in the gray satin-lined casket. His father’s broad shoulders brushed silk on both sides. His face looked unfamiliar, mostly because it was relaxed. But there was no mistaking the strong jaw and high cheekbones. Max saw them in the mirror every morning.

    • Laura —

      STELLAR DESCRIPTION!

      Fresh, fresh, fresh writing! Plus -you deepened character for Max, and his father. You are Immersion-grad good!

      No wonder you’ve landed contracts for four books this year!

      I am soooooooo proud of you! Keep writing fresh!

  3. Great information Margie! I agree with King, I’d much prefer to make my own mental image of a character than have the writer spell it out for me. Sometimes less really is more!

    • Lorelei –
      Stephen King gives readers the most interesting descriptors for his characters, and the reader fills in the rest. Much better than running through the eye, hair, build checklist.
      Thanks for posting!

  4. sandra tilley says:

    Loved, loved, loved reading the examples! Almost made me want to abandon my WIP! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Sharla Rae says:

    Hi Margie. I love the juicy info you always deliver in your blogs. Inspiring and insightful. Thanks. Hope to see you at conference.

    • Sharla —
      Thank you, thank you! I would love to meet you at National!

      I’m presenting a three hour workshop on Deep Editing Power at the Women’s Fiction event on Wednesday, and a one hour workshop on Friday at 4:30. The Friday workshop topic is — In Media Res: A How-to Guide for Making Your Openings Pop!

      I’ll email you so we can match schedules.

      Anyone else want to connect at National?

      • vicki batman says:

        Hi, Margie! I’ll see you at the RWA WF workshop.

        Best, Vicki Batman

        • Hey Vicki!

          Great to see you here! I remember chatting with you at Dreamin’ in Dallas.

          Thanks for letting me know I’ll get to see you again at the RWA WF workshop at National.
          I’m looking forward to seeing you again!

  6. Hi Margie, just saying hi and thank you for being here today to encourage us and challenge us as you always do.

  7. Great post, but I’m not surprise. :)

    You don’t need to enter me in the draw. I already have all of Margie’s courses.

  8. One of the best descriptions I ever heard was in a college writing class where my friend was struggling with a group of jocks, who didn’t particularly want to be there. One day she walked over to a girl in the class, whose long red hair shone from the light breaking through the bank of windows. “Describe the color of her hair,” my friend said, and before one of the boys could stop himself, he said, “It’s the color of October.”

    I still get chills when I think about that day.

  9. Brandie Nickerson says:

    Hi Margie! Thanks for the post. I agree with the great Steven King and would love to learn the art of writing character descriptions “just right” :-)

    Brandie

    • Brandie –

      Thanks for chiming in!

      I can teach you how to write character descriptions just right. ;-)

      Love that you backloaded your paragraph with power. Strong cadence too!

  10. Julie Golden says:

    Margie, your posts are always inspirational. Although your purpose may be to instruct a page-turning writing style, I find I slow down when reading your words and those of your students. Every word counts, and it seems they count double in your classes. (Speed reading is over-rated when it comes to entertainment.) I have a new goal: to someday write a comment like Stina’s, “I already have all of Margie’s courses.

    • Julie –

      Great comments!

      I think of page-turners as books that are written so well, I want to turn each page fast. I want to get to the good stuff on the next page, and the next, and the next, until I finish the book, non-stop.

      Now I’m craving a new page-turner!

  11. Love this post. Agree with King and Margie thanks for all the great examples.

  12. Lady Ardour says:

    Hi,
    Your article really interested me for two reasons. I am currently writing the first draft of my latest short story. I haven’t fully developed the characters or the plot, that is yet to come. I find writing my short stories so exciting. I woke up this morning after a dream I had last night. The dream was centered around this old crumbling down house in the middle of the country, the perfect place to set my story. Now that I have my setting sorted, I came online to see that Writers in the Storm had a new blog update on characters. Yippee. This is just my day.
    Reading through this article I must admit that I agree with Stephen KIng on not naming the physical atriibutes of a character, because this dosen’t matter, unless of course you are Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, then it is very important. But anyway, I found this article extremely helpful, especially some of the examples. I am going to read through these examples when I have my first draft complete and hopefully they will lend me some more inspiration. Thank you for your time,

    Lady Ardour
    X

    • Hello Lady A –

      Have fun writing your short story.

      Keep in mind that my writing craft courses each have 300+ pages of lectures. They’re loaded with examples and teaching points and analyses. Lots of dig deep into deep editing learning opportunities.

      Thank you for chiming in!

  13. Monique says:

    Hi Margie! Great post as always. I’ve always loved Darynda Jones character descriptions. She’s one of my all time favs. Taking one of your classes is on my lift of things I must do to improve my craft! Crossing my fingers…

    • Hey Monique –

      I love Darynda’s fresh character descriptions, and her fresh visceral emotions, and her fresh dialogue cues, and her fresh body language, and her fresh action scenes, and her fresh dialogue, and her fresh grabs-you-every-page humor, and . . . .

      Darynda is one of my all time favs too! It’s so fun that she’s a Margie grad — and so fun that she emailed me after she got her first contract to thank me for teaching her how to write fresh. She took my deep editing tools, and created art.

      Her talent earned her success. :-)

  14. Always love reading your examples, Margie. Thank you for showing us how to write character descriptions in a non-boring way. I just bought Stephen King’s novel and am looking forward to reading it. Your samples from his book are mesmerizing.
    Patti

  15. Jann says:

    Margie, I always look forward to reading your posts here on WITS, They are always filled with great information.

  16. Margie, this is a must stop on my blog travels each week. I love when you visit … I love even more that I am at present in your six week Deep Editing course. I told Laura Drake (the one who is responsible for my finally taking your class) … that after months of lurking and reading your blogs, the first week of your class spun me like a top. It’s an amazing class. Not only to learn from a master, but the wonderful feedback from classmates.

    I am sorry I will not get to meet you in person at Nationals, but I am thrilled to be a part of your class. See you later, teach :)

    • Hey Florence –

      After months of reading my blogs, so glad you finally decided to take one of my courses! I’m enjoying working with you, and your characters, in Fab 30.

      I love that Fab 30 is for Margie grads who have taken my BIG THREE writing craft courses. Fab 30′ers are uber-smart, uber-talented, and uber-fun too!

      I hope to meet you smile-to-smile sometime.

  17. Hi Margie!
    Awesome examples. I’ve bought a number of your packets and find them extremely helpful.
    Thank you!

    • Marlo —

      Ah — You’ve learned my deep editing systems and techniques from the Lecture Packets. Good for you!

      If you’ve worked through my BIG THREE — Empowering Characters’ Emotions, Deep Editing, and Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist — you’ve met the prerequistes for Fab 30: Advanced Deep Editing, A Master Class.

      In Fab 30, I deep edit 30 pages of your WIP — and post short (6 – 8 pages) lectures. They’re short lectures for my courses. ;-)

      Thanks for dropping by!

  18. Kathleen Groger says:

    Margie is an incredible teacher. Her lecture packets and courses are stuffed with information. She has upped the quality of my writing. Take one of her courses. Sign up. Do it! Do it! Do it!

    • Kathleen —

      Your comments gave me a visceral response!

      Thank you, thank you, thank you — for championing my courses.

      You know I love your strong story and your strong writing. Can’t wait to hear that you got THE CALL. ;-)

  19. I ALWAYS learn something new every time I read one of Margie’s posts. I really like Steven King’s idea of letting the reader fill in their own picture of the protagonist. That’s going to stick with me as I work on my next WIP.

    And I want to thank Margie for using an example from ALMOST A SCANDAL. I deep edited that book during an Immersion Class with Margie and it shows! But alas, ALMOST is not nominated for a RITA. That would be my 2011 book THE DANGER OF DESIRE. But hey, a writer can dream. We’ll just have to wait until next year to see how ALMOST A SCANDAL does. :)

    And, if you haven’t taken one of Margie’s Deep Editing classes, here’s another story to convince you to sign up for the next available class. I recently sent my hard-copy, deep edited manuscript, with all the colors blazing across the page, to my editor at St. Martin’s so she could physically see where I had made the changes. She wrote back, “I’m blown away by your color editing system, and by blown away I mean IMPRESSED.” So not even all the pros know these techniques that Margie teaches. But you should! “)

    • Elizabeth –

      Thanks for correcting my mistake! Duh.

      I know THE DANGER OF DESIRE is the book that’s nominated for the RITA.

      But I just read the ARC for ALMOST A SCANDAL, and had that story and your fresh writing dancing in my mind. The writing in both books is stellar. I bet ALMOST A SCANDAL will be nominated for a RITA next year.

      Cheers for your editor at St. Martin’s!

      Love that you snail-mailed a hard-copy of your deep edited and EDITS System highlighted manuscript to her so she could see where you made changes. Awesome!

      Your editor was IMPRESSED! Woohoo!

      Can’t wait to see you at National!

  20. One other thought on description is it is also related to the point of view. I’m writing a first person memoir and at one point I am seven years old. A seven year old won’t notice the same things an adult would notice, so the descriptions have to be age appropriate and give enough detail. At one point I walk with my father who is short of breath and I point out that his breathing reminds me of what I sound like after running the mile in gym.

    One challenge I have is finding ways to get my description in in first person. Don’t want to use the looking in the mirror, or other similar ruses.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Heather

  21. This was such a helpful article. One other thought on description is it is also related to the point of view. I’m writing a first person memoir and at one point I am seven years old. A seven year old won’t notice the same things an adult would notice, so the descriptions have to be age appropriate and give enough detail. At one point I walk with my father who is short of breath and I point out that his breathing reminds me of what I sound like after running the mile in gym.

    One challenge I have is finding ways to get my description in in first person. Don’t want to use the looking in the mirror, or other similar ruses.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Heather

    • Heather –

      Thanks for bringing up that critical point, age appropriate observations from your POV character. You are sooooo right. Different ages — 7, 17, 37, 57, 77, 97 — would notice different things.

      Thanks for sharing!

  22. Hi Margie!

    These Margie grads sound brilliant. Someday I hope to be so talented.

    I finished Lara’s book a few days back and I thought it was well done.

    Thanks for all your great advice.

    Best wishes,
    Greg

    • Greg -

      I realize you aren’t asking for validation. But I’m sharing a big dose of validation anyway. ;-))

      I believe you’re on your 4th Fab 30 class. After deep editing 100+ pages of your WIP, I KNOW your writing. And I KNOW it’s as fresh and compelling as your story and your characters.

      I KNOW you are uber-talented!

      Keep writing. Keep deep editing. Keep querying. I trust you’ll find success.

      Glad you read Lara Chapman’s RITA Nominated debut novel, FLAWLESS. Fabulous book!

  23. Awesome post, Margie!!! I always learn stuff and am awed by my fellow writers. I’ve read Stephen King’s book three times. He nailed it with description. Give them just enough to let them decide for themselves what someone looks like. What is they saying? No two people ever read the same book? We all bring our own ideas to anything we read, and too much description only weighs down the story and slows the action.

    Love this! Thanks, Margie! ~D~

    • Yo Darynda!

      My copy of ON WRITING has been purple-penned, multi-highlighted, and stick tabbed. It’s uber-loved.

      Your books are so well written, you rate a file for each book loaded with stellar examples.

      Can’t wait for your two releases in October: the first in your YA series, DEATH AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (Oct. 2nd), and the fourth in the Grave series, FOURTH GRAVE BENEATH MY FEET (Oct. 30th).

      I know they’ll both be stellar!

  24. marsharwest says:

    Margie, just taking a break from working on your packets to say hi. Trying to get ready for your Imersion class in September. Loved the comments about description. Have to go back and look at all of those, now! Everyone should get the packets, especially if they can’t see you in person.

    • Hey Marsha!

      I’m so excited about getting to work with you in Immersion class in September!

      Have fun working through the lecture packets. Don’t worry about memorizing the names of the rhetorical devices. No pop quizzes, no tests. :-)

      I’ll provide review sheets for the EDITS System, rhetorical devices, body language, dialogue cues, four levels of powering up emotion, etc. No worries!

  25. Kathryn Jane says:

    Hi Margie,
    Thanks for the great information and examples. I’d love to one day take one of your classes… perhaps next year in Atlanta.
    cheers
    Kathryn Jane

    • Kathryn -

      Glad you enjoyed the blog!

      I’m presenting in Houston, Denver, Seattle, and Washington DC this fall. Maybe I’ll see you in one of those cities.

      Plus, you can take my online courses, or order the lecture packet for each course.

      Lots of options. :-)

      Hope to see you in person or online, sometime!

  26. Linda Cacaci says:

    Wonderful post! Thank you, Margie!

  27. Karen McFarland says:

    I feel like I know you already Margie from your visits at More Cowbell! I would love to take one of your classes. Learning to gage the right amount of description is no easy task. Thank you for the many wonderful examples. I’m hoping I win! :)

  28. Carrie says:

    what fabulous examples. I know I sometimes miss giving those little mentions that help a reader picture my character better. I hate laundry lists so I try to weave them in if I can. Thanks for a great post Margie!

    • Hello Carrie –

      Weaving in description and setting is smart.

      Weaving in fresh description and fresh setting is brilliant. ;-)

      Thanks for letting me know you were here!

  29. Hi Margie! Can’t wait to see you at RWA and for the Immersion class soon!! :)

    Here is an example from the story I’ve worked on in your Deep Edits classes – it’s my hero’s view at the heroine:

    She was exotic and different from the English roses he had known his entire life-–with their milk water skin, demurely lowered eyes and giggles behind fans.

    This woman met you with her head held high. Eyes almost black in their depths sparkled with annoyance. Her skin had been generously kissed by the sun, and her jet black hair kinked into curls and waves barely contained in the style fashionable these days.

    • Yo Jeannie!

      Great example.Thanks for sharing. Love the detail – head held high.

      You were so smart to bid on my Immersion Master Class package on Brenda Novak’s Diabetes Auction. I’m so thrilled that you won the immersion class and two bonus days with me!

      So glad I get to see you at RWA National too!

  30. Rosie says:

    This is a second description of my portaganist Tass in my first ever (YA) WIP. We have already met everyone.

    They made an odd group journeying across the village. His white skin glowed against their darker hues. Myka was at least a head shorter than Tass and Mirana and her mother’s heads only reached his shoulder.

  31. Edie Houston says:

    I, personally, like those kinds of descriptions that aren’t specific. I like mannerisms, attitudes and personality to inform the character description. I like to fill in the details, such as hair and eye color, myself. I like Elizabeth Essex’s description wherein the only concrete description is of the eyes. Great post!

  32. Lena Diaz says:

    Margie, nice to see you here! I so enjoyed your all-day workshop at our First Coast Romance Writers gathering last year.

  33. Terri Snethen says:

    Hi, Margie! *waving madly*

  34. Celia says:

    Thanks for this post and the chance to win! I can’t make it to RWA, but I’d love to take a class or read a lecture. :)

    • Celia –

      Sorry random.org didn’t select your number. Maybe next time you’ll be our winner!

      Oh – I’ll clarify about the Lecture Packets.

      Each Lecture Packet includes all the lectures for that course. Most of my Lecture Packets have over 300 pages of lectures. Now you know! :-)

  35. Walt Mussell says:

    Margie, I have a few of your packets but you do like to update and improve things, so I’m definitely in. Also, if I have a chance to have you look at writing of mine, I’m up for that as well.

    This is from my new WIP set in the late 19th century in the Pacifc Northwest. Please note that heroine is a Japanese immigrant, which will explain her description of the hero.

    From the heroine:
    Roof Radcliffe reminded her of a samurai sword. His lean, tight frame was the hard edge that could cut anything while his gentle eyes showed the soft core that provided his resilience.

    From the hero:
    Yuki Mitsui’s black onyx ponytail swayed in the wind, the strands reflecting the light but staying together as if even the elements refused to mar her beauty.

    • Walt –

      You’re right! I do update my courses with new material and additional examples.

      Love your descriptions. Beautiful!

      Sorry you didn’t win this time. Hope to see you on my next blog!

  36. Margie, I looooove your examples. Fabulous character descriptions – they leave you wanting for more.

  37. Barbara DeLong says:

    Awesome post, Margie! I’m going right now to my WIP and see how the heck I described my hero in my opening scene. I think it’s stale as 3-day old beer!

  38. J. L. Mbewe says:

    Just stumbled here. Great info. I think I fall into that category of describing stuff as if I had a list. I think fresh descriptions does double duty in we get an image but also emotion, it reveals so much more. I want to get to that point. It’s also the voice, the style, the art, it brings us in and grips us. Very cool. Thanks for pointing this out!

  39. Wow all the Margie stars are out today in this blog! I’m a relative newcomer, having done my first Margie course in January. But I’ve done two or even three a month since then!

    I’ll have a go at description. The year is 1968. The “I” is an elderly spinster, Lyn’s great-aunt:
    Lyn is the image of her Great-grandfather. Boxy and red-mopped, and full of ideas of what other people should do with their lives. You’d almost think she were he but for her whiskerless face, and her bosoms. She has a generous shelf that moves in an unruly manner, Lyn having dispensed with her brassiere—burned, she told me a while back, at a gathering of her women’s group. News Women, I think they call themselves. I told her that burning her brassiere was a dreadful waste and she said right out, just like that, that she’d never seen me in one of the bloody things. Ha! She does make me laugh, this girl.

  40. As always your words are wise and wonderful. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with so many people.

  41. Jenny Hansen says:

    Hi Margie!!! I miss you. :-) I’m so excited that we get to meet live in a month. (WOOT!!)

  42. Great post. I only have one of your packets so far and am working my way through it and loving it. Here’s an excerpt from a contemporary short I’m working on, a geek romance. From the heroine’s perspective and she hasn’t seen this guy since high school:

    Hard to see that lanky kid now under all the male hunkiness before her—wide shoulders filled out his dark blue dress shirt. Black hair and high cheekbones hinted at perhaps some Cherokee blood.

    His khakis had the perfect fit—snug enough to hint at a fantastic bod, but not nerdy-tight. And definitely not the baggy style some guys sported. Not too tight, not too loose, but just right. Just call her Goldilocks of the Khaki Admirers. After all, a girl enjoyed a glimpse of firm butt. Speaking of which, she’d need to peek later.

    But what attracted her most was his warm, intelligent, bourbon brown eyes. She almost had a hard time looking in them during dinner, like she’d get overexposed and singed, or worse, like they could see down to the stark loneliness she buried so deep.

  43. Pam says:

    Love this article and love your classes! Put my name in the hat, i need more Margie classes. :D

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  45. Calisa Rhose says:

    Hi Fae and Margie! Since I’m a care-taker for my FIL, and therefore unable to go to RWA Anywhere, I’m giving a shot at winning your wonderful class offering. :) From my latest contract, here’s my hero’s impression the first time he meets his heroine. (fyi-Janna is his 7yo dd):

    She barely reached his shoulders, but her presence appeared larger than life as her crystal-blue gaze scanned him as thoroughly as a security wand at the airport. Easy to look at, summed up her symmetrical features and fair complexion. Hair the same yellow-gold shade as Janna’s Barbie dolls’ ruffled in the wind, allowing the sunlight to catch in the deep copper strands throughout.

    I’m a crumb-grabber, so thanks for sharing this blog in case I don’t win. But if I do…let me know @ cmselfridge (at) gmail (dot) com :D

  46. Asylos says:

    Just posting a quick comment to enter now. I need to come back and read the rest of the article later.

  47. Asylos says:

    Just posting a quick comment to enter. Bookmarked to read.

  48. I too really loved the King quote about not crowding out the reader’s vision of a character. I’ve read it before, but somehow with these examples it’s so much more clear how vital it to leave that space for imagination.

  49. Jami Gold says:

    Hi Margie,

    Great post! Here’s one I’ve done:

    The magazine covers hadn’t done justice to his appearance. On the surface, he looked younger than his thirty-one years, but the intensity of his gaze made him seem older. His styled mahogany-brown hair and custom-tailored tux looked like something out of GQ. Come to think of it, he’d probably been on that cover too.

  50. Hey Margie,
    I think writing fresh description is one of the hardest things for a writer to do. It’s especially daunting when you’re not naturally a visual writer.

  51. Margie–I love that Stephen King quote. I’ll have to go back and reread his book. And those are fantastic examples you posted! I always learn so much from you. I’m in round four of Fab 30 and still learning. Can’t seem to get enough!

    Barb

  52. Reetta Raitanen says:

    Brilliant examples, Margie. It’s a great endorsement to your teaching how you help talented students become even better :)

  53. I agree with Stephen King. And I loved reading these examples. It always kindles my creative muse. And it is a testimonial to your teaching.

  54. Like several others who’ve already commented, don’t enter me in the contest. I already have them.

    For those who invested in the packages, but didn’t take an on-line course with Margie, you have experienced only one part of the Magic of Margie. The courses grow legs and hearts when Margie joins the show. I’ve witnessed the glee zinging through her constant-motion petite body when she works plays with writers’ words.

    Oh! Oh! Oh! Immersion Master Class is a to-die-for-but-don’t experience. Go! Save your pennies, dine on free samples at Costco, rob a bank. Go!

    [From RHETt DEVLISht (the dude who runs around my hard drive disguised as a spreadsheet of rhetorical devices): Above paragraph? Epizeuxis, hyphenated run-on, cliche twist, zeugma, and asyndeton]

    Book a one way ticket. You won’t want to leave, and Margie’s too kind to kick you out. YIKES! Her husband packs heat. Hold little-wiener Calypso close to your heart.

    When Sherry Isaac and I write, we have a code for sentences masquerading as career opportunities, WWMD? What would Margie do?

    • LauraDrake says:

      I second that, Gloria. Margie’s packets are cheaper, and they’re wonderful, but you miss several things. 1. Margie feedback – essential. 2. Other student feedback. I discovered a super-critter at one of Margie’s online classes!

      Don’t miss out of an on-line class. And ask for Immersion for Christmas – it’s a rocket to publication!

      • The super-critter I discovered during my very FIRST Margie class also became my best friend. Road trip from TX to Toronto in three weeks to visit Sherry Isaac and the host of wonderful writers I’ve met through her. WOOT!

        But, I’ll be in a car. I can hear your yawn, Laura. What fun is that? Right?

        • You’re right, Gloria, but a trip in a car is better than working, right?
          I didn’t know that was how you two met – how cool!
          I hope to meet my critter in person someday too (Yes, Greg, I’m talking about you.)

  55. Regret missing National this year. I’d definitely be in Margie’s class. I’m published, but still learning!

  56. Ally Cowee says:

    Love reading everyone’s examples and spotting the Margie-isms! Hope I win! I want another FAB 30 :)

  57. HELLO EVERYONE —

    Wow! Great comments and examples.

    And — We have a winner!

    I clicked over to random.org — and the winner’s name is: MONIQUE!

    Monique — Congratulations! You won an online course or lecture packet. Please email me to coordinate your course. margie @ margielawson . com.

    Thanks again to FAE for inviting me to be her guest!

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  60. Yvette Carol says:

    I know I’m late, but I just wanted to say I’m feeling awestruck right now. And boy I needed this, I’m struggling with editing my WIP so this will help. Thanks Margie. Looking forward to doing a course with you one day.

  61. macswriter says:

    Hi Margie
    I’m late to the table but wanted to say: Great post, as usual. I always learn so much from you and love your examples. I’m still working (slowly) through the Body Language and Character lecture packets after I finished Deep Edits. So much to absorb! I’ll be at RWA so hope to meet you in person there, perhaps at the WF group.

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