This post on Almost an Author has so much great advice I could probably spend a month discussing it. But I don’t want to bore you, so I will just cover a few points.
TMD: Too Much Description
When I first started writing, I wanted my readers to see my characters exactly as I did. I would describe him or her in great detail. This was a mistake for several reasons. First, no amount of description will make a reader imagine my characters in the exact way that I do. Our imaginations are too vast for that. Second, every reader brings his or her own experiences to a story and those effect how the readers sees the character.
I have a character named Gabe. If you were bullied by a Gabe, that experience can influence how you picture my character and perhaps see him with negative, physical features. If you have an uncle Gabe who’s the greatest guy in the world, that real-life Gabe can “bleed” into the character and maybe give him some of the real person’s physical characteristics.
As Ms. Betz writes, I should provided descriptions that point out a character’s most important features, ones that are unique and sets him apart from other characters.
My main character Junior has six siblings and lives with two cousins. That’s a lot of kids to keep straight. One device that helps is that five of them are mixed race while four are Caucasian. Emphasizing how their various ethnic backgrounds appear in their looks distinguishes the kids from each other. It also underlines the family’s outsider status in a county that’s ninety percent Caucasian.
Next time I’ll write about another major problem I have with character descriptions: dumping.