Descriptions in WIP Wednesday

One of my beta readers on my contemporary novella pointed out that I described two secondary characters, but not the hero and heroine. Which was true. In fact, sometimes I barely describe my characters at all, though I almost always work from photographs and paintings so that I can see the person in my mind’s eye as I watch them act the dramas I document.

How about you? Do you see your characters? Do you describe them, and if so, is it eye of God or in another character’s viewpoint or the old ‘in a mirror’ trick?

This week, please share a description of someone in your work in progress. My excerpt describes, Ottilie, the heroine of Forged in Fire, which will appear in the box set for the Bluestocking Belles. We announce the title and reveal the cover this coming weekend.

She wasn’t as meek as she pretended. He’d seen the steel in her, the fire in those pretty hazel eyes.

The word ‘pretty’ put a check in his stride, but it was true. She had lovely eyes. Not a pretty face, precisely. Her cheeks were too thin, her jaw too square, her nose too straight for merely ‘pretty’. But in her own way, she was magnificent. She was not as comfortably curved or as young as the females he used to chase when he was a wild youth, the sort he always thought he preferred. Not as gaudy as them, with their bright dresses and their brighter face paint. But considerably less drab than he had thought at first sight. She was a little brown hen that showed to disadvantage beside the showier feathers of the parrot, but whose feathers were a subtle symphony of shades and patterns. Besides, parrots, in his experience, were selfish, demanding creatures.


6 thoughts on “Descriptions in WIP Wednesday

  1. Luckily, having two main characters who are much in love with each other means I can occasionally feed in a description. Here’s Mary, viewed by John:

    “She leaned next to him on the balustrade and drew in a few long breaths. A few strands of her hair had come loose from her braided chignon and danced in the breeze. He had vague recollections of her as a slim, pale child with dark hair and solemn blue eyes, practising dance sequences or playing blind man’s buff. A glance at the curve of her hips and swell of her breasts, just visible under the pelisse, was enough to show John she was no longer a child. How old was she now? Seventeen? Eighteen? She glanced up and he became aware he was staring. He blushed and looked down.”

    John’s a bit more difficult to piece together. Here’s one bit, from Mary’s PoV, before their marriage:

    “Lord Chatham’s frizzed hair showed dark even through the abundant powder, much of which had fallen onto the tall collar of his elegant woollen coat. His heavy-lidded eyes returned Mary’s scrutiny with approval.”

    Mostly with John, though, description seems to be more in terms of an impression than anything else. So there’s the line comparing his eyes to his sister’s:

    “Her eyes were like John’s: they had the same heavy-lidded, almond shape, the same shade of greyish-blue flecked with brown, but Harriot’s were full of mischief.”

    Or this, where I spend more time describing his clothes:

    “At that moment John came in. He wore a pea-green velvet suit lined with pink silk, his wigless hair frizzed, powdered and drawn back into a queue. At the sight of him Mary felt her heart beat more quickly, and not just because he looked handsome. The determination in his heavy-lidded eyes sent a chill through her.”

    (And the second part of that scene, where John comes back from his evening appointment and is Not At All Happy:

    “A few candles still burned in their mirrored sconces. They glinted off the silver buttons on his elegant green coat, the same coat that had made him look so handsome earlier that evening. He did not look handsome now. His face, half-plunged in shadow, was hard; cold fury blazed from him like an aura. Not once in their eleven years of marriage had John given her cause to fear him, but Mary found herself shrinking back and clutching for the support of the latch.”)

    Finally, John describing himself (yes, I’m guilty of the mirror thing here, so sue me: I still think it’s a powerful image, and one that strikes to the heart of my central theme):

    “He went to the shaving mirror over the dresser. His long chin was unshaven, his heavy-lidded blue eyes rimmed with red. There were disappointed grooves on either side of his mouth and between his black eyebrows. The older he got the more he looked like his father. The thought did not please him in the least.”

  2. This is more or less all the description I give of my heroine, seen from her cousin’s eyes.

    “Have you, ah, given any consideration yourself to remarrying? After all, it’s been a while now since Cousin Stephen’s, er, leaving us. I know you had the girls to finish getting off, but all that’s done now. You’re a woman on your own, you need a man to take care of things for you. While you’re up in London, you never know, someone might take a fancy to you.” He looked her up and down. “You’re young enough, for a widow. Still got your looks mostly, figure’s not too bad, and luckily brown hair’s in fashion at the moment. A younger son or someone of that sort, widower with children, he’d be grateful for a helpmeet, and wouldn’t need children for the succession being as you er …”

Love hearing from you