Playing With Character Descriptions

I got the idea for this post joking around with one of my friends. She said, “You should write about me,” and I was like, “You know all my poetry is mopey and depressing, right?”

But then I got the idea of describing each of my friends the way I would in a book. I’m doing this anonymously, but if you know me in real life, try to guess who’s who. I’ve gotta say, they will probably be really obvious.

For the rest of you, I’d actually like constructive critiques. Describing characters the first time you meet them in a story is a mix of fun and impossible for me. I hate it in books when you read a laundry list of only physical descriptions or when the author reveals too much about the character’s inner emotions/psyche right away. Finding a balance is something I’m trying to work on.

Each “character” gets a mini scene. If I were writing it in a novel, this would probably be broken up with dialogue, but in this case it is condensed into one paragraph.


“Character” #1

She’s loud. Not just her voice, but the way she throws her arms up when she sees me, the brightness of her smile, the carefree neon of clothes, the way she stomps her foot and says “You know what–” Some days, she’s 50’s vintage with a modern flair, sometimes she’s homemade scarves in wacky colors. Earbuds filled with electric pop; she’s dances through life like nobody’s watching. Rapid fire text messages alternate between hot guys and fights with parents. To my quiet persona of t-shirts and textbooks, she is overwhelming and electrifying at the same time.

“Character ” #2

She takes literary analysis and makes it funny, she takes history class and makes it trendy. We’ve got inside jokes about Napoleon’s fashion sense and Steinbeck essay titles. She can pull off wearing a vintage, pleated skirt on a regular basis–classy and sassy. Her eyes sparkle and her whole body punctuates a conversation. Everything is important, everything matters.

“Character” #3

She’s popular without being bitchy. She wears Uggs and those white Converse with the red piping, leggings and loose, stylish sweaters, and she always worries about her ponytail having hair bumps–it never does. We tease her with stereotypes so shallow she could never condense her spirit enough to obey them. She’s a lovable person who thinks nobody likes her, she’s a genius who fears failure on every test. Her laugh is quiet but full. She is honesty, even if that means showing doubt and fear. She doesn’t realize how alive she is, how much that draws people to her without her even trying.

“Character” #4

We are friends who barely talk. Everyone calls her “quiet”–but we know better. Her voice is soft but her words are powerful, her body is tiny but her personality is fearsome. People who don’t know her forget her, people who know her can’t stop paying attention. She is the kind of girl guys fall for without realizing what they are getting into.

“Character” #5

In my mind, she is giggling. She does not cover her mouth or apologize–she laughs shamelessly. I’ve seen her throw her arms to the sky and curse with a smile on her face. She wears layers of clothing like the pages of a book; seeing her in shorts feels wrong. She is a child at heart who never gave up being a princess, but she’s learned how to flirt with her princes.

“Character” #6

Sometimes, weeks or months separate us, but when we see each other, we still click. There’s always the fear: has she changed onto someone who doesn’t like me? And though I’ve seen her as a picky toddler, a rebellious tomboy, an obsessed fangirl, and a confident teenager–she’s always been a friend. She is always in flux, the kind of girl who has the money and opportunity to be whoever suits her at the moment. She is at once ridiculously optimistic and painfully cynical. It would be easy to condense her to daddy issues and rich white people problems–but that would be an insult to the multitude of hopes and dreams within her, and the hopes and dreams she’s had crushed.

“Character” #7

She is quiet in the way that a lesser person would call mousy or timid. But watch her smile, or get her to talk about classical music or tell her that her brother is coming home for the weekend. Watch her walk home with her best friend. She is reckless in a fascinating way that contradicts her innocent countenance. She is kind, she is real, she has lived.

“Character” #8

She is memories, now. If I look at her today, she is not the girl I struck up a random conversation with one day. She is not the girl I laughed and cried with, broke rules and cursed priests with. That girl vanished somewhere along the way, and now all I have left is memories of the best friend I had and a girl standing in front of me who I wish would go away.

She is the kind of sadness I relegate to the land of poems.

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