Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Characterization II

Morning! Back to our regularly-scheduled Tuesday writing workshops....:)

Using Adjectives in all the right places

"It was Miss Murdstone who was arrived, and a gloomy-looking lady she was: dark, like her brother, whom she greatly resembled in face and voice, and with very heavy eyebrows, nearly meeting over her large nose, as if, being disabled by the wrongs of her sex from wearing whiskers, she had carried them to that account. She brought with her two uncompromising hard black boxes, with her initials on the lids in hard brass nails. When she paid the coachman she took her money out of a hard steel purse, and she kept the purse in a very jail of a bag which hung upon her arm by a heavy chain, and shut up like a bite. I had never, at that time, seen such a metallic lady altogether as Miss Murdstone was."

                                                                   ~ from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is a master of description. From just this one paragraph, we readers learn a lot about Miss Murdstone, even though she hasn't spoken a word or even looked at the protagonist.


1. Analysis (If you’re keeping a journal, that’s a good place to do this. Alternately, copy and paste Dickens’ paragraph into your word processor and do your analysis digitally):
First, make two lists of the adjectives Dickens uses: one list describing Miss Murdstone herself and the second describing her possessions.

The protagonist calls her a “metallic” lady. Circle all the adjectives you’ve listed that refer to “metallic".

2) Choose a descriptive word that captures a personality (as Dickens did with "metallic"). Create a list of adjectives you could use in writing about that personality. Then turn the personality into a character and write a short descriptive paragraph showing us that character.

(you knew we’d get to this eventually)

Go back to a previously written work. Choose a random two pages and highlight all the adjectives you used. What kind of adjectives are they (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)?

Where can you add to the character descriptions to give the reader a clearer idea of the character's personality?

Final note

As you play around with adjectives, it’s important not to fall into the Adjective Trap or you'll end up with sentences like:

The cute-looking, bowlegged, tall, brown-haired, blue-eyed cowboy jauntily jumped onot his roan bandy-legged, long-maned, dark-eyed horse and clip-clopped, jingle-jangled into the purple, pink and blue-hued glorious, gorgeous, beautiful sunset.

 Play safe!

The nitty-gritty

A new workshop will be posted every Tuesday. Eventually we’ll have the contents of a book about writing. At that point, I’ll collect all the workshops in ebook (and maybe print) form for those who would like it all bundled into one nice, neat place and offer it for sale.

You’ll see a new button below. If you enjoy the workshops and find them useful, please consider sending a donation my way. When the final product is ready to go, those who have donated each time will get a free copy of the ebook as a gift from me. I won’t dun you twice for the content.


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