Creative Writing: individual vs character details

These are my notes from my Creative Writing class that address "individual versus character details," how to define them and what they look like. February 3rd, 2016

This lesson was focused on learning to omit what my teacher calls "banal details." Hair color, eye color, the carpet color, statistics.

If we get overwhelmed by the tiny details of the character: we risk the ability to see the whole picture.

There are "character" details and there are "individual details."

Individual focused details are: information found on a Driver's License. Example: Jeremy Masterson was standing at the corner of 8th Avenue and Wilson Street.

Character details reveal more about who the character is than what they look like. Example, and I want to say it is credited to author James Joyce: He was a red bearded man who always went through the door first.


Scenario: Just experienced some life altering event. Moments ago. Now they are looking at an inanimate object. Do not name the event or banal details about the person.

The wall still looked a shade of red. He knew it wasn't really pink--the mid-morning sunlight couldn't be blamed for the stain in his vision. His breath froze in his chest and he had to force himself to take another. The woman hadn't stopped screaming yet--the more she screamed, the redder the wall became. He felt his fingernails dig into his palms and realized his arms were shaking. The screaming had to stop or he would silence her himself. He felt his skin threaten to break beneath his grip and just before he drew blood--her voice became muffled. The wall shimmered in his vision, his focused returned along with the white stone. He took a deep breath and began counting the bricks. He steadied his breathing as he counted, one slow brick at a time. He could hardly mess this up. Finally he had counted each brick and began to really notice the details. The schism up the stone that hadn't always been there, the tear in the world so deep and dark. He imagined blood seeping out from the bottom of the stones, spilling on to the hot asphalt like his heart.

February 10th, 2016

My teacher defines plot as this: "Your job is to get your characters into a tree (inciting incident), throw rocks at them (conflict, makes it worse) then get them out of the tree (resolution)."


Scenario: Use no similes. Describe your character using objects, landscape, weather, etc to intensify how we view that character.

Stock image by assiduous on

Nox stood in the rain until it soaked his skin and cold droplets slid along his back. The heat from the morning sun still shimmered beneath his skin. Thunder rolled overhead and he felt it in his chest. His hand tightened around the handle of his blood dagger. The metal bit his flesh; blood mixed with rain. Thunder drowned out his tears. His chest tightened and he fought to catch his breath. He turned the dagger over in his hands, watching as the rain washed away the old, dried blood. The metal was too tainted, too sinister, to offer his reflection back to him.

I'd argue this is a terrible example of what I was supposed to be writing--but at the time, I was writing about Nox and I just kinda ran with it (story of my life!). It's still an interesting departure for me and my usual genre writing. I use the word "chest" a lot. What can I say, I'm easily distracted. I just wanted to write about Nox standing out in the rain...


February 17th, 2016

Scenario: Put your character in a situation in which the thing in which your character wants--is being withheld by another character.

Nox saw her really for the first time--her hair was longer than it had been, spilling over her shoulders in dark brown waves. The summers had darkened her skin and her eyes glittered*.  She was looking directly at him and his breath stopped.

"Mal--" He began, his heart pounding in his chest. Someone stepped between them. A tall, shadow of a man who moved like an assassin**. Slender with pale skin and light eyes like the depths of a pond. They stared right through Nox, past his trembling heart and sweaty palms.

"Who are you?" The stranger asked, his voice thick with an Isaran accent.

Nox took a step back. Malisyn was hidden from his view, just as this stranger intended.

*Author note: even I realize this sounds lame, and I've made a person note to stop using the word "glitter" "glisten" or "sparkle") As I said, I couldn't edit, and my mind drifts toward cliches on the first draft.

**Author note: See? Cliches. Whatever, at least it was written! Everyone is intimidated by assassins and ninjas, it's just a placeholder for a much better description...