No one likes the dreaded info dump.
Remember in grade school when you wrote a little story about Sally and puppies? Oh, it was so important back then to describe every physical trait about everything and everyone. A laundry list of pig-tailed hair and freckled faces and such.
"Hi, Mary," Sally said.
Sally was 7 years old. She had big blue eyes and red hair tied up in pig-tails. Her dress was pink and torn at the shoulder. Sally had freckles and was missing a front tooth, and she had a bandage on her knee. In her hand was a red leash. At the end of the leash was a puppy, with brown fur and...
You get the idea.
This may have led to a gold star in grade 3, but as a writer now, the laundry list is boring with a capital B. It interrupts the reader's flow, breaks the story, and offers up too much information that usually isn't necessary.
So, how do we add in character description without resorting to the list?
First, remember that your reader's brain will fill in any gaps. If I told you that Sally was a little girl with freckles, then you already have an idea of what she looks like. The brain is the great in-filler.
Second, you can drip these physical traits as you write your story, but only if they are either super important to the plot or to a character's richness. If your trait doesn't do this, you don't need it.
"Hi, Mary," Sally said. She wiped a red curl from her face and smoothed out her dress. "Do you want to see my new puppy?"
Later in the story (or in the scene), you could mention the bandage ("Hey, Sally, what happened to your knee?") or anything else that might develop the plot of Sally's richness. The important thing is to ditch the laundry list. Forever.
Hi, I'm David. I write science fiction from a Christian worldview that promotes hope. Want to know the darker details? Click here.
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