Here we are in week 4 of the writer in motion project (#writerinmotion) and I am getting the feeling that my characters need a little fleshing out. Both of my awesome Critique Partners in the project have mentioned not really knowing what my characters look like.
A legitimate complaint, and actually one I hear a lot from people who read my work. I have a tendency to lose the physicality of my characters as I strive to give more about their inner character rather than outward appearance.
Time to change that. Did you wonder if Sherry was blonde or brunette? White or not white? Tall? Thin? What about Lucy, the cousin, or Janie, the MC? I mean, I know what they look like so that should be enough, right?
Of course not, and I know that. I am restricted by my goal of 500 words, which means every word has a special purpose and wasting words on fleshing out my character was something I sacrificed to give a better view of their motivations and the world they were living in for this scene.
But… they are right, my awesome critique partners are right – we do need to know this. Our connections to characters we read about are based on a lot of factors – some of which include our idea of how they look based on what the author tells them the characters look like.
So, this week I am taking their suggestions under advisement and added a few tweaks to the descriptions of the characters. I hope this helps you see them better.
The Folly of Youth (version 4)
A dare soon became a test of courage and folly. The two are like equal sides of the same coin. Heads for courage and you win; tails for folly and you lose; I know that sounds dramatic, but aren’t all those things you wish you could do over from the safety of hindsight a bit dramatic?
Stars twinkled overhead now. Hard to believe only three hours earlier we’d been laughing and daring each other to try things we’d never done before. The coin was a lure, a promise of adventure; but its truth was a greater lie than a cloudy summer day.
Sherry suggested the game. She sat on the rough stone barrier separating the walkway into Grayson’s Cove from the beach licking her ice cream. I wanted to reach out and tuck her dark hair behind her ear, but resisted the urge. Her brown eyes watched my every move, a smirk turning the edges of her mouth upward as if she knew what I wanted from her.
“So, what’s the boat’s story anyway?” she nodded at the half-sunken ship down the beach.
I followed her slender arm; soft peach colored skin was dusted with sand from our earlier sunbathing. Sherry was a Summerling – a tourist visiting Grayson’s Cove for the season. That summer we all turned thirteen I loved Sherry at first sight.
“Here’s your cone, Janie,” Lucy handed me my favorite – strawberry double scoop.
I smiled at Sherry’s giggle when some of the melting ice cream landed on my shorts. Lucy snorted.
“Oh, just kiss and get it over with already,” Lucy said in disgust at my amateur attempts to hide my growing feelings.
“Why all the signs to stay away from the boat?” Sherry asked ignoring her cousin’s ill humor.
Lucy and I said at the same time, “Boy died playing there last summer.”
“Really? Let’s check it out.” Sherry leaped from the wall, halfway down the beach before Lucy and I realized she meant it.
“Hurry up, last one there has to jump off the roof,” she called over her shoulder laughing.
I tossed my cone and ran as fast as I could up the beach behind her, admiring how her legs sparkled in the sun as she ran. I felt so free, so happy. Tossing my blonde curls out of my eyes, I caught up to her at the boat.
“To the roof. We’re pirates!” Sherry climbed up the rickety ladder on the side of the tilting wooden structure. I was steps behind her.
Standing on the roof she crowed with glee.
Then the impossible happened.
I jumped after her, hoping somehow to stop the inevitable from happening, but the coin was tossed, and it fell on tails.
She landed awkwardly, her beautiful neck broken.
I remember Lucy screaming, then sirens. I clung onto Sherry even as they tried to separate us. The stars twinkled overhead as the Summerling – my first love, left this world for another adventure.