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If this woman were the MC (1 Viewer)

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alpacinoutd

Senior Member
Hello all.

How would you describe this woman if she were the main character in your story? She is supposed to be a very smart and talented pianist liked by most of the people who know her.

27503563_1566973343349904_753346570312046124_o.jpg
 

alpacinoutd

Senior Member
I hope your students appreciate all the hard work forum users put into giving you examples. ;)

I'd assume you've never taught English and can't imagine how basic the knowledge of learners can be. If I get them not to say "the Paris", that is good enough. They never need or want to learn English to the point where they can describe painstaking details. They just need to learn enough to be able to communicate without screwing up. So, this is not for them.:wink:
 

alpacinoutd

Senior Member
Howzabout you write a description as though it's from your story and I can comment on what works and what doesn't? I'd be happy to try that.

Rosa was the perfect embodiment of feminine sexuality. She was tall and slim. Her long brown hair was always a riot of loose strands, straggling down her flawless olive skin. She wore a thick black eyeliner that accentuated her blue eyes. She had full lips that bloomed like a tulip when she smiled. Her nimble fingers were a bit curved, her back a bit hunched from years of playing the piano.

Problem is, I want to avoid cliches, but I find it difficult.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Rosa was the perfect embodiment of feminine sexuality. She was tall and slim. Her long brown hair was always a riot of loose strands, straggling down her flawless olive skin. She wore a thick black eyeliner that accentuated her blue eyes. She had full lips that bloomed like a tulip when she smiled. Her nimble fingers were a bit curved, her back a bit hunched from years of playing the piano.

Problem is, I want to avoid cliches, but I find it difficult.
Sure thing, so the trick here is to tear it apart a bit and realize what's working and what's not. Keep in mind that I'm just giving you my take on this description.

Right now it's factual, you've described the picture and put a little at the end about her playing the piano. The description is flat and two-dimensional as an avatar.

I especially dislike the point-blank emptiness of the first line and would remove that in favor of using stronger words in the description that carry the same idea of feminine sexuality and appeal. The negative word-choice 'straggling' is defeating the purpose of showing a flawless picture.

What does work is where you got into 'accentuated' her blue eyes and full lips that 'bloomed like a tulip when she smiled'. These are word-pictures that also add some action words with the accentuating and blooming.

The next step, if I could offer one, would be to consider the emotion that the POV character has regarding the character you're describing. Is it love? envy? lust? This emotion can help you nudge your word-pictures and choices in the direction you want to go and create a stronger whole.

Does this make sense? I'm happy to continue talking about this if it helps.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Hello all.

How would you describe this woman if she were the main character in your story? She is supposed to be a very smart and talented pianist liked by most of the people who know her.

View attachment 26754

I can't say much; to me she looks odd. Plastic surgery? Lips pumped up maybe?

ETA: I dated a classically trained pianist LONG ago. She looked like a regular, nice person, rather than someone that's fixated on her appearance. Someone like that practices hours and hours and even more hours every single day, and as such have a great depth of character and are incredibly interesting people.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Rosa was the perfect embodiment of feminine sexuality. She was tall and slim. Her long brown hair was always a riot of loose strands, straggling down her flawless olive skin. She wore a thick black eyeliner that accentuated her blue eyes. She had full lips that bloomed like a tulip when she smiled. Her nimble fingers were a bit curved, her back a bit hunched from years of playing the piano.

Problem is, I want to avoid cliches, but I find it difficult.
Not enough of this description speaks to your character, "very smart and talented pianist liked by most of the people who know her." It reads more like your fantasy of the perfect woman physically. And then you add one sentence at the end, in an attempt to capture her.

Do you know any pianists in real life? Try describing them.

Also, I would focus more on her mode of dress and personality. "She wore no make up, other than thick black eyeliner because she thought it made her look sophisticated, like the artists she had seen in Soho.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
One of the tricks of this great time-sink of a hobby is describing characters. I claim no particular ability in that regard, but one thing I've figured out over the years is the difference in describing a character and describing their looks.

The best thing I've found for describing appearance is keeping things a short as feasible - build, hair color (maybe eye color, depending) and any distinguishing features. Any impressions should probably be described in the protag's voice rather than than the author. Remember - two characters meeting for the first time won't have any kind of understanding. There's a difference in seeing something and wanting it and seeing the person and appreciating them.

Describing the character takes a greater degree of familiarity that probably can't be convincingly pulled off at first brush.

If that makes any kind of sense.
 

Sir-KP

Senior Member
That wavy-haired brunette sitting by the piano right there. She may look like your petite regular party-goer, but listen to the melody coming out from her agile fingers. It's unsurpassable, it's soul taking, as if she was born for it.
 
I see no problem with describing her in the author's voice instead of the POV character's voice -- depends on what kind of viewpoint you're using. However, there should still be a voice to the description, the details contributing to the overall picture.

My thoughts on your description:
Rosa was the perfect embodiment of feminine sexuality. Meh, I don't know. Implies there's one perfect form of erotic beauty, and not differentiated forms, which .... well, I disagree. Also, in my opinion it's better to begin with a concrete image instead of an abstract one.
She was tall and slim. Her long brown hair was always a riot of loose strands, straggling down her flawless olive skin. I like 'riot of loose strands,' because it gives me a feeling as well as a picture. But I think this could be made punchier, with a focus on that solid image: "Her hair was a riot of loose strands, her skin flawless olive."
She wore a thick black eyeliner that accentuated her blue eyes. Here might be a good spot to include some suggestion of her personality. Why does she wear such makeup?
She had full lips that bloomed like a tulip when she smiled. Good image, though with a creepy edge, if that is what you intended.
Her nimble fingers were a bit curved, her back a bit hunched from years of playing the piano. If you are playing the piano correctly, it will actually improve your posture.

Overall, I think one big issue is a feel a tonal disconnect between the first and second halves. Up until "flawless olive skin," I have a picture of a beautiful (though somewhat generic) woman, with little suggestion of her personality. From "She wore a thick black eyeliner" on, the description gives me a subtly creeping feeling, like there is something going on under the surface (the blooming lips, the hunched back, and the cadence all contribute). A perhaps false beauty.

Here's a description I wrote that leans into that idea of pretense, or something being put on. I don't know if that's what you were going for, but it's just to get you thinking:
"She had hair like loosed rapids, chestnut-brown, and her skillfully-applied makeup smoothed and sharpened her face to a point of uncanny artistry. She was a machine of charm, every inch of her precise--how her hair fell on her olive shoulders, how her arm drooped just so, how her words were few and her laughter much--though you would not have known it, for craft at her level of mastery had all the appearance of chance. Only when she played the piano did her precision drop all pretense; her fingers fell with such exactitude, one could only marvel."

I kept the word "precision" in mind as I was writing that description, to give it a consistent feel. I was loosely building it around the extended metaphor of a machine. That's generally how I write character descriptions: one idea, usually a metaphor of some kind, with details that contribute to it.
 
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