I have close to no experience of writing, but I have an idea that I would like to make into a short story (if for nothing else, for the sake of the exercise). It is a fantasy story seen from one of the character POV. I haven't yet decided if I should use first- or third-person narration, but from what I surmised from this very website, third might be just easier.

Now, I want to try to stay really close to that character POV. But should I describe her? I am considering to provide her name and age, but is anything else relevant? Or is it better for the reader appropriation of the character to provide some guide-line as to the physics of the character?

In short, how many details should be considered a bare minimum for the main narrator's character?

1 Answer 1


There is no minimum. When I look in the mirror, I recognise myself. Good enough. Does it matter if I have more hair above my nose or below it? Only when I get soup in my mustache. Does it matter to your character? If your character is vain or insecure, you can use their description of themselves as a way to show that. The descriptions you should include are those that are important to the plot, to the character or to the scene. In a novel you want more description to set the stage and the mood. In a short story although you still need to set the stage and the mood more emphasis is given to the plot.

The most detailed you would want to be is usually everything consciously noticed. In most cases you want less detail than this. The exception is what should have been noticed but was not.

  • Thanks, that seems to go in what I was thinking. I was considering to give her name, and her age (not sure yet, but around 12) as this is important for her relation to the other characters. Physically I don't want to make a too strong setting, so I was hoping I could skip it completely. May 22, 2015 at 7:14
  • I would recommend not explicitly describing her at all. She has a name, fine, the other characters can use it. Her age is equivalent to her peers, cool, but unless her age comes up in dialog . . .
    – hildred
    May 22, 2015 at 9:27
  • The age is important as she is considerably younger than the other characters. But her name, I was certainly going to try a dialog thing. The problem is that age in a dialog would probably come "late": you don't go around talking about the age of your relatives to them (except on birthdays). And that might be too late. Well maybe just some indication of the range in which she is might be sufficient. May 22, 2015 at 9:49
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    If she is significantly younger than another character, you can show this by how you describe the other character, "I looked up at him, sure he was handsome, but he was old, you know something like twenty."
    – hildred
    May 22, 2015 at 9:54

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