Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dressing Up Your Characters

Dressing up your characters so they won't be so plain.

Make them sparkle. Give them personality. Make them interesting.

You know what I mean.
Give them a special name.
Spice up their appearance, make them stand out in the crowd.
Give them special words to utter
Something that sets them apart from the rest.

Some examples are ...

Scarlet O'Hara and her fiddle de dee
Pippi Longstocking and her super strength and crazy pigtails

Spice up your characters with little quirks and mannerisms

Give them a flaw. The fact that they aren't perfect helps the audience identity with them.

Whatever trait you give your character, make it consistent throughout your story.
Or they could be fickle and unpredictable, making the reader never know what to expect from them. This would work good in a children's story.

They could have a certain style of dress that sets them apart from all others.


I saw the shoes under the bathroom stall door. One pink and one yellow sneaker. It was Lucy, no one else in school wore two different colors of shoes. One week she wore red and blue and the next week green and brown. It was no mistake, Lucy was in there. I waited patiently for my best friend.

Give them outstanding or unusual character traits.

smart-------------- superstitious
forgetful ---------------clumsy
mischievous -----------boastful
messy ---------------excitable
humble -------------- boring
timid -------------- bossy
pitiful --------------curious

What does your character look like?

Close you eyes and create the image in your head. How do you see her?
Try to use other senses, don't rely only on visual description.
If you touched her, what would you feel? What would you hear or smell?

front teeth missing
frizzy hair
smooth skin
gum chewing, bubble popping
continually humming
cracks knuckles
smells like lavender bubble bath

Now using traits and as many senses as possible describe a scene with your character.


  1. I have read some of your posts and would like to revisit.

    If you like short stories and paintings, then a visit to my blogs would be an interesting one for you.

    Naval Langa

    Another Interesting Blog

  2. I love lavender bubble bath!

    I also love playing dress-up.

    So, dear teacher, how do I turn in my assignment after completion?

  3. Hi Laurie, I would love to see your scene posted in a comment.

  4. He He He He He He
    Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho
    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

    This was fun. I hope you enjoy it even though I'm afraid I must have been feeling a little morbid today because I made this poor girl miserable.

    Chloe Whitaker, at age eight, began every day with strawberry pop-tarts. She was loyal. She wouldn’t be tempted by sugar coated cold cereal, or eggs and bacon, or waffles and syrup.

    While she sat and ate her pop tarts, Chloe inhaled drifts of rose scented hand lotion. Breakfast without pot tarts and the smell of roses would have been too dismal to bother eating.

    The smell of rose hand lotion was a comfort to Chloe. When she was four years old, she was horrified by a supermarket cashier’s scaly elbows. They looked like the bumpy kneecaps of an Apatosaurus. This was a terrible condition, one that Chloe assumed was contagious like chicken pox.

    It took Grandma Jo, who Chloe was living with at the time, forever to figure out why Chloe was terrified of grocery shopping, and after she finally figured it out, Grandma Jo tossed Chloe a big plastic bottle of rose scented hand lotion and promised if she rubbed it on her elbows twice a day, it would ward off scales.

    After that Chloe went through at least seven bottles of hand lotion a year. For Chole, it was all-body lotion. Grandma Jo kept the lotion coming because she was flattered that Chloe insisted on using the same kind of lotion that she herself used.

    Like I said, Chloe Whitaker was loyal. Unfortunately her product loyalty did not extend to people loyalty. Her parents were divorced, and she migrated between her mother, her father, and her Grandma Jo. She was suspicious of everyone. She learned, at any early age, to deftly play the three adults in her life against each other. She never had friends her own age. First, because she smelled like a grandma, and second because she didn’t want any.

    Chloe might have been a little loyal to her father if he hadn’t been such a traitor. He betrayed her mother when Chloe was only a baby, and he betrayed Chloe every time he got sick of her and drove her to Grandma Jo’s and left her there.

    At least she was pretty. Once, when she was about six years old, she had heard someone say, “It helps to be pretty when you’re a waif,” and Chloe had known that person was talking about her. She had known even before she’d looked up “waif” in the dictionary. Chloe had big dark eyes, white skin, and thick curling dark hair. It only took one glance in the mirror, probably before the age of three, to let Chloe know that she was pretty, and she had never bothered to look in the mirror much after that.

    That’s probably why her hair was usually smashed, un-brushed, up in a baseball cap, except on school days when Chloe pushed it through a scrunchy.

    She got bad grades. When she was living with her mother she went to school on the South Side and didn’t have to worry about homework or grades because her mother could care less. When she was living with Grandma Jo she went to school on the East End and hid her report cards when they came in the mail and forged signatures on progress reports, because Grandma Jo pretended she cared about school, but really she didn’t. When she lived with her father she went to school on the North Side, and she did her homework, because he helped her, but she never turned it in; she didn’t want to share her private time with her father with a stupid, prying teacher. She repeated second grade once, and she was well on her way toward repeating it again.

    Chloe had one weakness. Birds. She loved birds. Her father took her to the aviary when she was only a toddler and, except for an occasional visit to the zoo, that is the only place she ever requested to visit again.

    That’s why when her father dropped her off at Grandma Jo’s for the last time. Chloe didn’t go inside. She followed a pigeon down the street and into another dimension.

    -end- but now that Chloe has birthed herself out the end of my ball point pen - What AM I going to do with her. My daughters, who just came home from school, love her (which surprised me) and they are the ones who came up with the "into another dimension" end for my character sketch.

    - sorry so long,
    -Chloe carried me away,

  5. Wow! See what a little 'command' can do. It got you writing. Chloe is quite a character, I can see why your children like her. I can see a MG book in the makings here. Write on!


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