Tuesday, December 27, 2005

But what does she look like?

I'm still writing in the wee hours of the morning. Not only am I progressing with my novel, but I'm constantly coming to new realizations about the writing process. (At least my writing process. I don't want to speak for everyone!) There's just something about that dark, silent time of day that makes me philosophical.

My latest realization concerns physical description.

Physical descriptions of characters and settings don't come naturally to me. I just don't pay a lot of attention to how things look. I can't tell you how many times I've been driving along a street I've already driven down a million times, and all of a sudden I see some store or restaurant I never noticed before--something that's obviously been there for years. And when I'm reading, I often skim through extensive descriptions of the characters and their surroundings. I'm much more interested in how people feel, what they do, and why they do the things they do.

Still, physical descriptions are an important and necessary component to a good story. Great descriptions make stories richer and help the reader visualize what's happening. They also can reveal a lot about the plot or what's going on with a particular character. But I don't always "see" my characters very well, so physical descriptions are often difficult.

One amazing phenomenon that happens while writing fiction is the characters start taking on a life of their own. (Actually the whole story takes on a life of it's own, which I'll write about in a future blog entry.) You can have someone pegged in your mind as being a certain way, and then they'll do something you never would have expected, and you suddenly realize there's this whole new dimension to their personality you weren't aware of before.

Well, I'm finding the same can happen with physical appearance. One character, in particular, I could never visualize. I just didn't know how she looked. But I kept writing about her, and now I'm finding little aspects of her appearance popping up as the story progresses. Now I know she has a long, thick braid dangling down her back, and her mouth is usually set in a harsh line. These are qualities I couldn't "see" when I first wrote about her, but can now that I know her better.

Weird, huh? Most of the time the way someone looks is one of the first things you learn about them. But when writing about characters and places I can't see, I don't always know how they look right away. I need to get to know everything about them--including their appearance.


PartTimeMom said...

wow - what awsome insite. I look forward to hearing more about the process as you go though it!

Renée said...

Thanks! :o)

wyo said...

You are always looking deeper than the surface, so this process seems to make sense for you. Pretty cool, really! :)

Renée said...

The scary thing is, it does make sense to me! ;o) I'll write more about how the story takes on a life of it's own, soon.