Monday, April 26, 2010

Lengthy Character Descriptions

Many writing advisors caution against lengthy character descriptions, and when I started to write, I heeded them. As I introduced my characters in "Nice Girls Don't Bite," I tried to keep their descriptions to a brief simile. "She looked like a bright-eyed inquisitive kitten." The ladies in my writers group protested. "What is she wearing?" I heard repeatedly. I gave in a little. "She was dressed in the height of fashion." That wasn't good enough. "What is she wearing?" they repeated. Pointing out that the readership for cozies is primarily women, they insisted that clothing descriptions were necessary. Okay, I finally gave in, but I used the surrender as a springboard for characterization. My high fashion character was Erleen, so every time she changed clothes I made an item of apparel useful in other places. For example, fifteen thin silver bracelets on one wrist that quivered and clinked with her indignation in a police interview. Boots with Lucite heels that prevented her from running as far as Louise suggested in a panicky situation. I tried not to get too carried away with clothing description, but I have to admit that what Erleen wore became an interesting and sometimes funny aspect of the novel. (I hope.)

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