Writing Prompt: No Description

Written by Emily Harstone | June 26, 2013

I often create characters by picturing what they look like first. For example, I think of their hair, the color and length of it, or I think of how tall they might be. If I am worried the characters looks too much like me, I always make them short, because one of my most noticeable features is my height.

After I know what they look like I go on to explain the rest of their of personality to myself. All these things are just written down in my notes, I would never add them into the book, because by the time I write the book their personality will be broadcast by their actions.

I have noticed that in a lot of books the author focuses on telling us what the characters are like instead of showing. Occasionally that is necessary, but often it is not.

In this exercise I want you to picture a character in your mind, perhaps even one you have already developed, and then I want you to write about this character without using any physical description. In other words, if your character is fit, I don’t want to be told that, I want to see her running for miles, or easily rearranging furniture.

I also do not want you to describe what the character likes or dislikes, instead I want to learn these things by knowing what music the character listens to on a run, or what they order at a coffee shop, or what they talk about with friends. Everything about your main character that your readers need to know should me made clear by that character’s direct actions.

The first time you do this exercise you should limit yourself to  writing for 15 minutes. But after the first time feel free to do it without a timer. This is one of my favorite exercises because it leads to the development of a compelling, truthful character.