What you can learn from reading another writer
Published: July 1, 2005
|I recently read The Love Wife by Gish Jen, and underlined the following passage: |
"He had longish hair, carefully Brylcreemed to resemble a car hood, or an ocean swell; a high, wide forehead that seemed an extension of that swell; and a brow almost as heavy as mine."
This physical description stood out as singular and vivid so that the character came to life in my mind's eye. I wanted to create something similarly distinct, so I pulled up an underdeveloped character from a short story that I'm working on. I focused on writing in concrete images as specific as possible. Here's what I came up with: "Rebecca's dreadlocks sprang loose from her scalp as if her head was covered in exclamation points. Her walnut brown skin shone in the candlelight; delicate eyebrows arched over amber eyes that made me think of bronze, or a lion, or the middle of the earth, some strata below the surface of every day." Whether or not I incorporate this into a story, by writing it, I internalized the technique and brought my concentrated attention to the task of using specific and evocative physical details to reveal character. The next time I introduce a character, I have this experience upon which to draw.