Monday, March 24, 2014


I've been writing a workshop for the multi-genre writer's group, Pennwriters' annual conference in May. (See: for more info.) I'm doing two workshops. One on Characters and one on writing a 3-book series.

As I was working on the one for Characters, it struck me that well-structured character actions and reactions can make some of the most beautiful writing.

Nora Roberts is my favorite when it comes to writing that draws me in. I even use an example from one of her books VISION IN WHITE to show how actions can not just move a scene along; they can also get in description less clumsily.

Just as they reached the door, it opened. The man who stepped out wore an open coat, no hat, gloves or scarf. The wind immediately kicked the dark hair around his ridiculously handsome face. One glance at Mac had his well-cut lips curving and his sea-at-midnight eyes lighting.
   “Hey Macadamia.” He hoisted her up by the elbows, smacked a kiss to her lips...

What do we see there? 1. The person described doesn't react to cold. LOL 2. He has blue eyes and black hair and is handsome…yet never once does NR say…his eyes were blue…She gets those descriptions into action. 3. Subtext…he knows her. He likes her. He teases her…he calls her macadamia. A nut! LOL

Nora Roberts USES physical description and action to tell us a great deal about the character’s personality. But also to inform us about the relationship, even as she moves the story along.


Physical description is important in terms of making sure the character’s physical characteristics match their part in the story, but the way you present it can do double duty if you can tuck the description into an action or reaction. If your protagonist is ugly, for instance, people are going to react to that. If he’s handsome, same deal. If he’s average, the very fact that they don’t react can play into your story.


But also notice how Nora Roberts's paragraph flows. There's no story stoppage. (We interrupt this scene to give you an important description! LOL) Instead we are drawn in. We are in the moment with the characters.

That's good characterization and good writing. :)

Happy Monday...And happy reading.

susan meier

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