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Breaking Ground and Character Description Philosophy

Aaaaand we’re 400 words into LW&C #6.

Aaaaaaaaaand my new sleep med is now kicking in so I need to stop before I go completely whackadoodle.

…seems like a great time to write a blog post and publish it on the Internet!

So the fun part about writing a series of stories over 14 years is you totally forget the appearance of characters. Lord Grier last showed up in 2010’s “Otherwise Engaged”, so it’s back to the archives I go to figure out wtf he looked like.

Assuming, of course, I described him at all.

Fact! I really like C.J. Cherryh’s* approach to character description which is to say I don’t like describing characters except for their most distinctive features. So, like, I bothered to sketch out the features that indicate Wil’s family came from Karse once I figured out that part of his heritage. And I always knew Lelia and Lyle actually for serious were descended from a wayward Shin’a’in outcast because I’m a goofball who loves all that cool romantic intrigue stuff.

(Like ooooh, what’d he doooo, why’d he get kicked ooooout? And why’d this ancestor end up in Valdemaaaaar? Hey! I’m getting there! Give me time! I only have 6,000 words to deal with!)

Other than that, I like to leave it up to the reader when possible. Some things I need to put down in stone for story reasons. But the glory of books is your readers get to use their imagination and play along.

Ivy’s another one I need to go poking around to figure out how much I’ve bothered to commit firm details on. While I’m sure I’ve written these things about Ivy, I don’t know if I had them published because these stories very frequently have vast quantities of material that never see the light of day. It can be a struggle to keep track of. Also, this isn’t my dayjob.

And so tomorrow I know what I’m doing on the vanpool ride to work.

(I used to have a character file with all this stuff in it but it was pre-Scrivener and pre-Internets-cloud and I am too lazy to mirror that harddrive. I’m very sorry, for anyone who loves continuity. Which is usually me, I swear.)

* Where did I read this? I feel like it was in a SFWA manual or magazine somewhere. It had to have been at least 30+ years ago. And then when I started reading Cherryh’s fiction I realized she did it all the time. Anyway, this is just me. If you like to spend paragraphs on character and location descriptions, knock yourself out. Sure as hell didn’t hurt J.K. Rowling’s career.

Published inShort Stories