Exercise: Leave Your License In Your Pocket!

A lot of people, when they settle down to describe a character, start with a pretty vague description. They have a height, or at least an approximate height range, a hair color, and an eye color. It’s like being handed a character’s driver’s license, only with the picture and most of the geographic information either blurred out or completely obscured by a magnification of whatever watermarks and other anti-duplication strategies the issuer was prone to. If this is how witnesses are describing criminals, it’s small wonder so many of them get away!

The worst thing about hair and eye color is that while they can be functional details, most of the people who rely on them don’t seem to be using them that way. They’re just… there. Since I’ve been talking about character descriptions all week, I’m going to leave you with a way to practice putting all this stuff to work.

Your mission for this exercise is to describe a character, in three sentences or less. There’s one big rule, though. You cannot, and I repeat cannot, use any ‘driver’s license’ detail as the primary part of a piece of description; at most, it has to be subordinated under a more interesting detail. So no soulful blue eyes with long lashes (I’m willing to accept a slight hint of some color behind amber-tinted flight goggles), no hair as black as a raven’s wing flying out in the wind, and no heights except in terms of something else. Think about other salient details; I’m sure your characters have loads.

Have fun!


  1. Philo Pharynx says:

    Speaking as somebody that plays a lot of online games – Give me an idea what species you are! I deal with a lot of people that forget that simple idea. You start playing and somewhere down the line you find out they are an elf…

  2. UZ says:

    He was shaped like a thing that didn’t exist, or only rarely at best; still, one might know that shape by its reputation, even never having seen such a thing – the robustness of the latrine as formed from cubes of clay, rather than the customary planks accorded to such external sub-buildings. Such comparisons are sometimes made without regard to odor, so let it also be said that he smelled nothing like what this comparison might suggest. Lastly, his fingernails were meticulously cared for.

  3. Ravyn says:

    Philo: No kidding! I sometimes forget that, though that’s mostly because I keep playing in universes where most people are something approximating human, so fantasy species blip off the radar for me.

    UZ: Errrrr…… wow.

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