I want to write a book like Fyodor Dostoevsky.

If you read "Crime and Punishment", you know he does not describe his characters with clothes and appearances, he describes their minds.

I don't know how.

I'm practicing to learn how to write like him. Could you help me to write like him?

What should I do?

2 Answers 2


I almost never explicitly describe the physical characteristics of my characters, and my readers don't miss it.

If I need to show Josh is extraordinarily tall, because this is a plot element, I have Josh do things that require extraordinary tallness.

He can dunk a basketball on his tiptoes. He has to duck his head coming into the classroom, so he doesn't hit it on the upper frame. When kids get a ball stuck in a tree, and can't reach it with a broom, they get Josh to get it down for them.

If Julie is extraordinarily beautiful at 16, men and women turn their heads when she walks into a restaurant, or when she's walking down the street.

I never say she is beautiful.

Mandy and Julie are sitting on Mandy's bed, talking.

Julie says, "Why don't you just ask him out? I asked Mike out the first time, you know."

Mandy says, "Well of course he did! You ever look at yourself? The frikkin' pope would say yes if you asked him out!"

Julie laughed. "But see, you're really funny!"

"Right! I forgot, that's number one for boys in a girlfriend."

"Well not -- Oh. Okay. Hm."

"I guess I can try it. All he can do is laugh at me."

"Well if he does that, I'll take you for ice cream."

"How can you even eat ice cream? Do you have a fairy godmother or an amulet or something? Be honest."

Julie laughed.

Readers would rather read this scene, than "Mandy is plain but spontaneously funny. Julie is her very beautiful best friend, and Mandy makes her laugh.

FACTS are forgettable. Recite as few FACTS as possible.

SCENES are memorable. This is what they mean by "Show, don't Tell."

When you describe a scene, readers see the movie in their head, and remember it. When you tell them facts instead, they have to memorize those facts, and they can't remember them. If you need to get something across they will remember, invent a scene (or scenes) to do it.

It takes more words, obviously, but people that read for entertainment do not mind reading.


Honestly I think the only way to accomplish that is to read as much Dostoevsky as you can. His writing wasn't just a style you can easily pick up. He writes the way he does because of the environment he grew up in, the people he knew, his personal characteristics. These are all the variables that define each and every one of our styles. He had a very specific outlook on people and the world that would be hard to duplicate. That's one of the reasons he is so revered (at least by many) because he is not easily imitated if at all. So just read everything you can that he has written and do a bit of research into the time and environment he grew up in and wrote in. Then just write constantly and try to get that unmistakable Dostoevsky touch in your writing.

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