FutureLearn: Start Writing Fiction

Developing a character

1. Character sketch
Tall, slim, 70s, high cheek bones, very attractive. Smartly dressed – camel coat, navy suit, both look expensive. Odd gloves! One red, one rainbow striped. No handbag – small purple purse retrieved from coat pocket. Grey hair, straight, shoulder-length. Lovely stylish haircut, but windswept and she doesn’t seem to mind. Very blue eyes, grey eyebrows. Dark red lipstick, no other makeup. Long hands, French polish. Lots of rings – large coloured stones, and two wedding rings? Fiddles with necklace a lot – flat round stones, multi-coloured – and with the earring on her left ear (small gold hoop). Loud voice, but I don’t think it’s deliberate – it carries well. Actress? Teacher? Very well-spoken. Ring leader of this group. Pushes her glasses to the top of her head to read. Glasses are frameless, with those bendy unbreakable arms. She likes to make people laugh. When she smiles, her lipstick bleeds a bit. Sips her tea, holding the cup in both hands with her elbows on the table. Cuts her sandwiches – already quartered – in half again before eating them very slowly. Uses the napkin a lot, but the lipstick stays where it is. 186

2. Adding details to the sketch
Around 5’ 10” tall, slim (size 12), 70s, high cheek bones, very attractive. Smartly dressed – calf-length camel coat, navy suit (jacket and trousers, well cut), both look expensive. Odd woollen gloves! One red, one rainbow striped. No handbag – small purple leather purse retrieved from coat pocket. Light grey hair, straight, shoulder-length. Lovely stylish haircut, but windswept and she doesn’t seem to mind. Very blue eyes, grey eyebrows. Dark red lipstick, no other makeup. Long hands, French polish. Lots of rings – large coloured stones, and two wedding rings? Fiddles with necklace a lot – flat round stones, multi-coloured – and with the earring on her left ear (small gold hoop). Loud voice, but I don’t think it’s deliberate – it carries well. Actress? Teacher? Very well-spoken. Ring leader of this group. Pushes her glasses to the top of her head to read. Glasses are frameless, with those bendy unbreakable arms. She likes to make people laugh. When she smiles, her lipstick bleeds a bit. Sips her tea, holding the cup in both hands with her elbows on the table. Cuts her sandwiches – already quartered – in half again before eating them very slowly. Uses the napkin a lot, but the lipstick stays where it is.
[I’ve elaborated on her height and clothes, but I can’t recall more details or add to those I’ve already recorded.]

3. Painting the picture
Four older women took their seats at two tables adjacent to mine. One was taller than her companions, dressed in a smart camel coat which she removed to reveal a trim navy trouser suit. Her grey shoulder-length hair was stylishly cut but windswept, and I’d noticed when they arrived that she’d been wearing one red glove and one striped one, which she’d stuffed into her coat pockets while waiting to be directed to a table.

She was clearly the ring-leader, guiding the others through the menu and offering her views on their choices with a firm, well-spoken voice that commanded attention above the buzz of the other customers. While her friends chatted quietly, this woman did not lower her voice and I was privy to her end of the group’s conversations for over half an hour. As we watched the parade pass the tea-room window, she pointed at a group of small children in the street, dressed as fairies.

“Oh look,“ she said, “babes in drag.”
The whole tea-room chuckled, and the woman smiled.

As I stood to leave, the woman reached out to touch my arm. Her long fingers were perfectly manicured, and I caught a glimpse of several large jewelled rings, and what looked like two wedding rings, before meeting her eyes. She smiled, her dark red lipstick bleeding slightly into the lines around her mouth.

“Enjoy the play”, she said, and it almost felt like a command. “It’s magnificent.”
She’d clearly overheard my telephone conversation to a friend, and didn’t mind letting me know. When she smiled again, I noticed the creases at the corner of her eyes, and felt like she was letting me in on a mischievous secret. I liked her.
“I will,” I assured her, and she smiled again, nodding.


 


Wondering why this is here?
I’m studying towards a degree in English Literature (Creative Writing pathway) and in between modules I’ve signed up for some free courses, courtesy of FutureLearn

My first course – Start Writing Fiction – is providing me with very valuable advice and techniques, and this week’s challenge has been to add more detail to a character sketch that was created last week.

I’m sharing both here because there’s a character limit on the FutureLearn site (understandably!), but I can add a link to my sketches here.

 

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About johannanield

Welsh author of a contemporary British romance trilogy
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