Is your character hiding in the shadows?

Shadows can be cool and welcoming, or scary.

And characters hiding in the shadows can be effective.

But a story with characters that I can’t see, can’t envision or know drive me nuts. I have trouble staying with the story.


Recently, I discovered a book with a good story. A who-done-it, murder mystery, police and detective type story. That left me plodding through page after page.

I’m a fast reader. But with this book I just could not get into the flow. As soon as I was cruising along, I’d stumble and fall coming to a screeching halt.

What brought me out of the story?

The characters. This book is written with three prominent characters. Three detectives partnered together to solve the crime.

The lead detective is the protagonist and her two trusty sidekicks. Throughout the story, it is easy to picture the protagonist as the writer helps us envision her. However, after the first introduction of the two other detectives, the reader is expected to remember them.

Now I’m a very visual person. I like a book to read as vivid as a movie. A character’s quirks and mannerisms and physical traits should be introducing in bits and pieces so that they become real to the reader as the story unfolds.

When this doesn’t happen, I find myself flipping back through the book to get a glimpse of the person. And personally, that is just plain exhausting. No matter how good the story is.

A character is more than a pretty, or ugly face.

Dumping all of their vitals at the beginning of the story doesn’t endear them to the reader.

  • Sprinkle bits about their looks, the way they talk, walk, or their special talents throughout the story each time the character makes an appearance. I think it keeps the reader invested in them and the story.

It’s important to make sure that your reader can see what you see when they read about your characters.

Give them the details to share your vision.

Everyone knows to give each character a face, quirks, and personality.

  • It might help to make a vision board with a drawing or photo of your character.
  • Search for look-a-likes on modeling sites, ad campaigns, and baby pics. Remember this is just for your vision board.
  • Interview your character. Add pictures of their answers to the board.

So what do you think?

Is it important to unfold the visual impact of the characters as the story unfolds?

Do you forget what a character looks like without little reminders throughout the story?

What are your tips for keeping the characters as fresh as the tale?

Want to read more about character building? Check out the articles below.

Talk to me!

Leave a comment. Click to write me or contact me on Twitter @jeancogdell, Facebook at  jean.cogdell and, stop by and say hey! The lights are on and I’m waiting.

Please remember share this post with your Twitter peeps and Facebook fans.

How to bring your characters into focus by Susan Bearman

Visualization for Writers  by Holly Lisle



12 thoughts on “Is your character hiding in the shadows?

  1. Before I start a project, I go looking for the portrait and a name. Without those two things, I can’t go forward. Thanks for the reminder to sprinkle details of traits and flaws through out the story. I do it but I know I need to do more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you’re right about the reader having to get a handle on a character before they can empathise. What doesn’t work is the string of descriptive phrases full of adjectives and adverbs dumped as the character is introduced. It sounds forced and reminds the reader that this isn’t a real person, but an invention of the author, take it or leave it. Seems to me anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.