Just How Important are Character Descriptions?


Contributed by Karen Cioffi, Children's Writer

To answer the title question, character descriptions are essential.

It’s these descriptions that give the reader insight into the character and let the reader know:

-What type of person she is
-What his family is like
-What his education status is
-What her hobbies are
-What she’s passionate about
-What she’s afraid of
-What his physical details are
-What his social standing is
-Where she lives

The list can go on to include talents, sports, beliefs, and so much more if the story calls for it.

Just a simple description of a character drawing tells the reader about him. Maybe he’s artistic. Whether he’s talented at it or not will give another element of his personality.

Suppose he’s terrible at drawing but does it anyway. What can that tell the reader about him? Possibly he’s determined. He may march to his own drum, or he just likes it and doesn’t care about excelling in it.

Maybe another character studies all the time and gets all As. Maybe the character studies all the time and barely passes. This gives a big clue as to the ‘character’ of these characters. The one who gets all As is driven. The one who barely passes may not be driven but knows that without struggling, she’ll fail. Possibly, character isn’t as intelligent as the first.

What if a character is always yelled at and put down by his father? Might that help the reader understand the character’s behavioral issues?


-In the first couple of pages of middle-grade Walking Through Walls, the main character Wang, is described as being disgruntled. He doesn’t like hard work. He’s impatient, and he fights with his sister.

Right off the bat, the reader knows a lot about this character. The reader may even be able to see himself in the character. This makes a connection.

-What if a description shows that a character is disabled and in a wheelchair but strives to do everything she physically can, even playing sports? What does this tell you about the character?

-How about a description of a teen character lifting weights? This simple activity, combined with a couple of other details, can tell you a lot about his physical and emotional state.

Maybe he wants to be strong and look good. Maybe he’s physically weak and is being bullied. He may want to be able to protect himself, take care of himself. It could even be the emotional side of it; he doesn’t want to appear weak.

-How about a cross-country runner or competitive swimmer? The first thing the reader may think of is that the character has physical stamina.

Another layer of the character could be the reason why he does such strenuous activity. Does he simply love it? Or does he have ADHD or a depressive personality, and the rigorous routine helps him?

Providing character descriptions will help the reader connect to the character. Hopefully, it will help create a strong connection. It will help the reader form a vested interest in what happens to the character. It will make the reader root for the character and keep turning the pages.

So, the next time you’re creating your character, be sure to think about how you can add descriptions to create a multi-dimensional character that will bring that character to life.





Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. If you need help with your story, visit Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

Karen also offers authors:

A DIY book to help you write your own children’s book.

Self-publishing help for children’s authors.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I had to share this on my social networks! I see this topic very often and this article is exceptionally detailed. Thank you.

Best! Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Karen Cioffi said...

Glad it's helpful, Carolyn. And thanks for sharing!

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