Character Descriptions

It's time for a short quiz:


Marybell came into the office, eyes lowered, gliding apologetically. She sat with legs straight and tight together and nervously smoothed her plain cotton dress down over her knees. She wore no polish on her bitten fingernails, and her face was devoid of makeup.


Marybell is
     A) timid
     B) confident



Lillian knocked briskly on the door and swung into the office, electric with energy, swinging a tiny purse, her heels clicking sharply on the tiles. Her head was high; her hairdo was beautiful. She gave me a wide, confident grin as she leaned across my desk to shake my hand. I proferred her a chair and she plumped down, crossed her pretty legs, whipped out a notebook and a ballpoint pen, and fixed me with keen, intelligent blue eyes that stared with total confidence out of her perfectly made-up face.


Lillian is
     A) timid
     B) confident


I trust you didn't find that quiz too difficult.

Good characters jump off the page and tell you who they are—before they ever open their mouths.

Clothes Make the Man

There is an old proverb: "Clothes make the man." It means that you can tell a lot about a person by how they dress.

If it's true that "clothes make the man", what can you say about a person who is wearing:

  • a diamond ring
  • a fur coat
  • a baseball cap
  • a tailored suit
  • greasy overalls
  • a leather jacket
  • polished white shoes
  • 3-inch heels
  • a low-cut blouse
  • a garish tie
  • a flowing cape
  • a track suit with a Nike logo

In the short story "A Scandal in Bohemia", the famous detective Sherlock Holmes meets the following gentleman:

22 Best A Scandal in Bohemia - Sherlock Holmes images | A scandal ...A very large man entered the parlor. He was over six feet tall and very muscular. He wore a fancy coat and a deep blue cape. The cape was fastened at his neck with a large gemstone. His boots were high and topped off with fur. He held a large hat in one hand. With his other, he adjusted an eye mask that covered the upper part of his face.


You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that this man is a nobleman who is afraid of being recognized.

Similes and Metaphors

Similes and Metaphors are a great way to make your characters come alive:

Instructions for the Quiz

Now it's your turn.

Write a 1-paragraph character description.

Before you start writing, take a moment to think about these questions:

There are no strict requirements about what your description must include. The important thing is that you give the reader a good sense of your character's status, occupation, or personality.

I should be able to say, "Oh, I get it; this character is _________. (wealthy, sick, greedy, kind, innocent, etc.)

Can't think of anyone to describe? Try describing one of the following characters:

  • a flamboyant magician
  • a tired waitress
  • a sailor on shore leave
  • a mean teacher
  • a haughty chef
  • a hard-working construction worker
  • an innocent schoolgirl
  • a cynical (distrustful) street-rat (gang member)
  • a greedy businessperson

Below are a few more character descriptions to inspire you:

From "The Perfects" by Jennifer Allison:

You've got to hand it to Mrs. Perfect: On first impression, she really lives up to her name. She wore a neatly tailored pantsuit, designer shoes with tiny heels, and black leather gloves. Not a hair was out of place. She smiled with approval, as she swiftly eyed me from head-to-toe.


From "Welcome to the Club" by R.L. Stine:

He also recognized the dude everyone called Bony. He was good-looking in a tough kind of way—long, wavy hair; a tight smile; steely gray eyes, cold eyes; and a tiny stud in one ear. He dressed tough, too, in black T-shirts with heavy-metal-band logos and straight-legged black denims, a frayed leather jacket with the word KILLERS in red across the back.


From "Sword Woman" by Robert E. Howard:

My father parted the bushes and came into the glade—a tall man, guant and bitter, darkened with the suns of many campaigns, marked with scars gotten in the service of greedy kings and avaricious dukes. He scowled at me, and faith, I would hardly have recongized him had he worn another expression.