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3 Tips to Help You Describe Your Character’s Eye or Hair Color

Being writers makes us describers.

We introduce a main character, knowing we are required to describe how our hero or heroine or villain looks, sounds, yes, even how they smell.

Sometimes we go so far as to “cast” our books, assembling photos of actors and actresses on Pinterest boards – our dream ensemble, should our novel ever become a movie.

Recently, I found myself talking writing with a variety of published authors. The question: How to describe a character’s hair color.

Easy to do, right?

Nope.

How many times have you heard brown hair – or blond or black or red – described in “heard it all before” terms?
Brown hair – brown sugar
• Blond hair – honey blond
• Black hair – jet black
• Red hair – copper

And what about eye color?
Cornflower blue eyes
• Chocolate brown eyes
• Emerald green eyes

The challenge is to come up with fresh words to illustrate things other authors are also describing. To take everyday things and make them ours. No, not ours – make them our characters. But how do we do that?

Tie the color back to your character’s favorite memory – something related to their Happiest Moment. If your heroine’s favorite memory takes place during the spring, maybe the hero’s eyes are the green of new spring grass. If the memory centers around a family campout, maybe the hero’s eyes are the smoky grey that lingers around a campfire.
Keep colors in context and connect colors back to your character’s profession or hobbies. If your character is an outdoorsy person, then maybe the heroine’s eyes are as blue as the Colorado sky – a very distinct blue, by the way. If your character is dog groomer, maybe the hero’s hair is the same burnished red color as an Irish setter’s.
Google a specific color – blue, green, brown – and then click on the link for images. By browsing through photographs, you come across fresh images to spark new ways to describe colors. When I googled the color “brown,” a photo prompted me to describe my hero’s eyes as a “faded brown leather.” DISCLAIMER: Sometimes you run across some “dicey” images when you google a color. Just be forewarned.

What helps you be creative when describing a character’s eye or hair color?

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Why is a Writer Like a Bumblebee by Angela Arndt

You’ve heard the story that, after an extensive study, a scientist proclaimed there was no valid reason a bumblebee could fly? It turns out the study was completed in 1934, and there have been one or two advances in the field of aeronautical engineering since then.  Shout it from the rooftops: “Science proves bumblebees CAN fly.”

This morning, I saw a bumblebee in our yard bouncing from stem-to-stem. When its little body landed atop one blossom, the branch swayed way down, almost to the ground. But, instead of flying away, it stayed aboard and vibrated its tiny wings just little harder.

I admit it, I’m curious; I did a little research on this intrepid insect.

  • Bumblebee nests may be underground, in abandoned mouse holes, or bird boxes – any place that’s dark and quiet.
  • If you robbed a bumblebee nest, it would yield only get a few ounces of honey. In comparison, if you harvest the honey from only a few frames of honeybee comb, your output would be closer to a gallon.
  • Bumblebees pollinate some plants that honeybees can’t, including tomatoes, Brazil nuts, cactus, and eggplant.
  • The name, bumblebee, means “clumsy.” (They don’t seem to care.)

So why is a writer like a bumblebee?

  1. A writer should be a writing machine, even if when if the product crashes-and-burns. Remember: just flap a little harder and hang on.
  2. Writer’s lairs are usually in the unused, forgotten, dusty parts of the house. However, writing dens belonging to the species, published author, tend to be gorgeous and well-lit.
  3. All writers may not produce the same amount of honey (or money), but all writers must write.
  4. All forms of writing are valid. Novellas, short stories, articles and flash fiction can be as compelling as full-length novels.
  5. If an online reviewer, from the genus trollus, calls your work “clumsy,” ignore them. The data needed to make that determination won’t be available until you’ve left this earth. In the meantime, write like a bumblebee.

Writers of the world, let’s make this our rally cry: “Bumblebees CAN fly!”

Eh, maybe not.

~*~

 

fb-Headshot aearndt 82113When Angela Arndt is not watching bumblebees or robbing honey bee hives, she enjoys writing mysteries set in small Southern towns. Coincidentally, she, her husband, and their three very large dogs (a lab mix, Staffordshire terrier, and a 12-pound poodle) live in the middle of a big wood outside a small Southern town. She would love for you to visit her website, or Seriously Write, her team blog.

 

 

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Extreme Book Makeover: Reconnecting with your Story

I wrote a story 5 years ago that I didn’t finish called Limelight. A project for what I called our “Blog-A-Book” series, Limelight was a teaching novella that put application to the theory of writing by deconstructing the story-crafting process step by step. I worked with our blog and MBT Voices audience to pull together characters, a plot, the inner journey and then went scene by scene . . . until I hit Act 3.

Then I landed an unexpected writing project and something had to give.

The novella sat unfinished, my hero and heroine on the verge of their Black Moment Event, their Epiphany and their Triumphant Ending, free-framed, waiting for me to find the time.

Find. The. Time.  Right!  As time wore on, the story flow began to subside, and although I still loved the story, whenever that elusive “time” showed up, getting back into the character’s heads, the emotion and flow of the story seemed overwhelming.

Until . . . two weeks ago.  I pulled out Limelight to teach as series for our MBT Premium Members called “Build-A-Book” where we start with an idea and end with a publishable book.  As I started to read the story (and realized I still liked it), I knew I had to finish it.

But how to get into the flow again?

Summertime can be such a challenge for writers—vacations, kids camp schedules and house repairs cut into our writing time and we can find our writing flow disjointed, our minds scattered and our ability to identify with our characters stunted.

I discovered, as I went back to my writing chair with this story, a few tools to help me get back into the current of the story.

  1. I pulled out my Synopsis. Whether a story is contracted or not, I always “tell myself the story” in a rough synopsis form whenever I finish plotting and doing my character work.  Although I give myself freedom to veer from this plan as I see fit, having that outline helps me know:
    1. If my Plot makes sense
    2. What research I’ll still need to do
    3. If I’ve completed the character’s inner journey
    4. If I’ve build the romance correctly.
    5. If I’ve capped it off with a sufficient happy ending

After I write the synopsis, I separate it into chapters so I can see, roughly, what I need to accomplish in each chapter.

I dug up the synopsis for Limelight and tracked down to where I’d left off.  Now I had a game plan.

  1. I pulled up my Character Layering and Essential Scenes Guide. The synopsis gave me an external blueprint of the story. But I still needed to dive into the character and discover how much of himself he’d revealed to the reader—and the other characters. Character layering (and unlayering!) is a powerful way to reveal backstory naturally, mimicking the way we get to know people. In this way you can save character secrets and their dark moment story until exactly the right time for the reveal to move the story forward.  Although I read the story over to get momentum, I still needed to catch up to what the reader knew about my characters, and take the next logical step.

 

My Character Layering Chart helped me track this revelation, and the Essential Scenes told me what I’d accomplished . . .  and what I still needed to write.

 

  1. My Character Change Journey Chart. Along with my character revelation, I also needed to track my character’s inner journey.  While it can sometimes feel like an organic process, the character change journey is actually a step-by-step process, something I plot out in the story.  Grabbing this chart helped me figure out what scenes I still needed to write.

 

MBT Character Change Journey/Chart

Act 1
Snapshot of DreamInvitation to change

Need to change

 

Act 2
Attempt and failureCost consideration

Rewards

Desire

Attempt and mini-victory

Training for Battle

 

Act 3
Black MomentEpiphany

New Man (& Testing)

Happily Ever After

 

 

  1. I re-read the story, without editing. Although I love to dig into scenes and create a more powerful emotional experience, I needed to “feel” the story, to step into the storyworld and reacquaint myself with the characters, to worry about them.  Stopping to edit would only slow this down.  (as an aside, I did take rewrite notes and asked questions to answer later, after I’d finished the story.)  I am an Outliner AND an Organic writer, meaning I create a plan, and set up the right structure for my scene, but I also love to “feel” my way into a story and let my characters take over, so reading the story gave me that final push into the flow of the story.

 

  1. I told my writing partner the story. Nothing helps keep you on track like a story partner with whom you can discuss the overall flow and brainstorm the next scene.  Hearing yourself talk it out will assist the scene in coming to life.

 

  1. I blocked out a huge chunk of writing time. Knowing it would take a bit to get my legs into the story, and estimating it would take about 15,000 words to finish, I scheduled 3 full days to write, stocked the fridge and warned my family that I would be “going dark.”

 

The good news is that I finished the book.  And I can’t wait to put it together for the MBT audience (although with my creation notes).  But if you are working on a story this summer, and need to stay “in the flow” despite your crazy schedule, here’s a few tips (in summary)

 

  1. Tell yourself the story (so you have a game plan)
  2. Keep a copy of the Character Layering Chart and Check off your Essential Scenes as you write them.
  3. Plot the Character change journey and assign each step to chapters, so you know (generally) where you are (so you can pick up where you left off)
  4. Read the scene just before the one you are going to write, without editing, at the top of your writing session.
  5. Keep your writing partner current with your story so they can brainstorm with you and give you ideas (and help keep you on track)
  6. Block out time to write, even if it isn’t every day. Stock the fridge, trade babysitting with a friend, send the kids to camp . . . whatever.  We all know that time is valuable, so even if you don’t keep a regular schedule, don’t just give up—hunt for and protect that time.

 

Writing a great book doesn’t just happen.  And when we have to fit it around summer fun, it has to become intentional.  But with the right strategies, you can get that chapter written—and go to the beach, too!

 

Go! Write Something Brilliant!

 

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