The Devil is in the Details
The Devil’s in the Details or…building your own unique characters
by Maureen L. Bonatch
“I just met Yukon Cornelius.” My hubby tells me as he’s sharing a story from his day and a man he encountered, because he knows I’d immediately be able to envision the person he’s describing without him having to use any descriptive terms. I smiled as I recalled my favorite boisterous, quirky character from the Rudolph movies and a few of his plethora of quotes such as:
Yukon: We’ll have to outwit the fiend with our superior intelligence.
Yukon: Douse your nose and run like crazy!
(For this and more fun Yukon Cornelius quotes click HERE )
But my hubby wasn’t talking about any of the personality that went along with this character, only his appearance. In making a comparison in your writing instead of describing the details of your character may end up with your reader becoming confused by your reference. Everyone might not know who Yukon was and you’d merely end up frustrating your reader. Or worse…have them step away from your story to look up this reference. Another thing to consider is that the ready-made character you’re referencing totally overshadows the character you’re building.
It’s true, that after I observed the gentleman my hubby referred to, he did resemble Yukon in appearance, but not at all in demeanor. Although I noticed something else first…the neon green glasses he wore.
The jaunty frames seemed an unusual choice of a man of his large frame and mature age. They made him unique. I wouldn’t have thought the brightly colored glasses were subtle, but my hubby hadn’t even noticed them. To me the glasses overshadowed everything else and would be the first step in building him into my own distinctive character. One that may resemble someone else but who had a much different personality that went along with his unusual glasses. Perhaps a warlock hid behind his quiet façade, or the glasses were a tool he utilized to maintain his human appearance…but I digress…
Don’t hit your reader over the head with overbearing or overwhelming details so that it pulls them out of the story and away from your character. Let them absorb the quirks and characteristics as unique as they are until your character stands out on their own while still fitting seamlessly into the story.
A few writer resources to get you started:
Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda Edelstein
Description & Setting: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Believable World of People, Places, and Events (Write Great Fiction) By Ron Rozelle
But better yet– find out on your own with a simple exercise you can do is with the people around you.
You can describe people that you know (without revealing who it is) to see if others can identify them. By appearance, quirky habits or mannerisms that make them unique. (Now be nice…)
Or try to describe how you think others would view you and see if you are close to the mark.