For those not in the know, creative writing might seem like a simple pursuit. However, as anyone who has slaved over a blank page will know, it can really feel like hard work at times.
This is especially true when it comes to forming well rounded, realistic characters – especially crafting their personalities, and describing them on the page. But this begs the question: how exactly can you describe a personality in writing, and what are the things to avoid?
How To Describe A Character’s Personality?
When it comes to aptly describing the personality of a character in writing, there are certain methods you can use to achieve the level of realism, humanity, and well roundedness that you want from solid creative writing.
Start With A Plan
The first thing you need to do is to approach your characters with distinct plans – detailing their appearance, their information, and their distinct back stories.
This is one of the best ways to flesh them out, create a sense of grounded reality in their characteristics, and then get on your way to properly describing them as unique humans with personalities.
One of the best ways to do this is to assign a document (or a page of a notepad) to each character, and then spending each page focusing solely on the character – detailing their likes, their dislikes, their temperament, and everything that makes them tick.
Focus On Specific Details
When conveying the personality of a character through writing, it is also important to focus on specific details about them.
We can often become focused entirely on their appearance – namely because we want to appropriately portray the images in our heads – however, the color of someone’s eyes or hair do not denote their personality.
Think of their mannerisms – the way they move, the way they speak – as well as things like their expressions, the words they choose in any given scenario, and other things that say more about them as a person, instead of their appearance.
If the character behaves strangely in conventional scenarios, or seems unhinged when they should be calm, then this suggests a lot about their personality. Similarly, if the character acts calmly under high pressure situations, then this too suggests a lot about the kind of person they are.
As human beings, we attach meaning to personal objects and possessions – and the same goes with writing. The way a character dresses, the vehicle they drive, the house they live, and the things they own all say a lot about their unique personality.
Our possessions highlight our likes and dislikes, not to mention the orderliness of our minds. If the character is somewhat wacky and unconventional, then this should be reflected in their personal space and belongings.
And the same goes for incredibly reserved characters who do not like to give a lot away about themselves.
The same goes with clothes. After all, the saying goes ‘clothes maketh the man’, and this couldn’t be more true. If there is one thing that denotes and portrays our personalities to the world, it is what we adorn our bodies with.
This means using clothing as the tool it was designed to be, as well as things like hairstyles, jewelry, and tattoos. All of these are personal choices made by the character, and should reflect their true personalities and intentions.
Practice Brief Descriptions
One of the most important lessons to learn within creative writing is establishing a sense of ‘economy’ within your writing.
This is the difference between delivering the right amount of information to the audience, and going completely overboard and bombarding them with too much information.
Economic writing gives them a juicy description while leaving them wanting more – leaving enough room for mystery, intrigue, and the work that the rest of the book will hopefully do to reveal their character to the audience.
Try summing up people that you are intimately familiar with – including yourself – and then move on to practicing with your characters. Practice is the optimal word here, afterall, it does make perfect.
Look For Inspiration
Most writers have writers that they look up to – or whose work is important to them as a source of inspiration – and this can be a good way to find the method of descriptions that you really respond to and resonate with.
If you have a writer you admire, and one that you hold up as one of the best in the business, then see how they describe their character’s personalities, and see what lessons can be gleaned from their work.
As writers, our heroes are what inspire us to continue producing new work – and picking up a pen in the first place – and as such, finding writing that we resonate with can be a great way of not only finding our own creative voice, but learning the tricks of the trade in the process.
Things To Avoid When Describing Personality
There are also things you should avoid when describing the personalities of characters in writing.
Stay Relevant To The Scene
While there are no rules in writing per se, it is important to only add descriptions when they are relevant to the scene. This is usually the first time a character appears within the book.
Don’t Info Dump
It is also important to avoid dumping long lists of information in one paragraph. Good character descriptions are like fine wines: they get better with age and time to mature.
It’s certainly true that creative writing can be difficult – especially when it comes to creating humanity and realism within a fictional setting. However, there have never been so many resources out there to help you create the best characters possible.
So if you want to know how to write a character’s personality, then be sure to follow these handy tips!