New answers tagged

2

I've struggled with this too. 'Perfect' characters aren't as enthralling to read about or to write, and they're much more difficult to connect with. Here's some advice based on what I've found works well for me! My Psychology teacher once gave a lecture about the relationships between a person's good and bad traits. A lot of writers approach building a ...


7

As of 2017, the collective works of H.G. Wells, including The Time Machine, are in the public domain. Not only that, Wikipedia also lists over a dozen stories based on The Time Machine, almost all of which were written before that date (I can only assume its US copyright expired much earlier) and only one of which is mentioned to have been authorised by ...


1

FWIW: At the end of the story/book add an Appendix "History of the MYTO". There you can add all the detail you want. If a reader uses it, fine. If they feel they don't need it, fine also. This has the benefit of mentioning past history that can become other stories (you will have laid the groundwork for them in the "History" piece).


3

As someone with a personal history of skimping on the descriptions I can tell you this will definitely turn some readers off. As with everything, you can't and shouldn't cater to everyone, but you SHOULD be aware of the costs of the choices you are making. Some readers are strongly visual people and want to have a clear picture of the characters and ...


2

Just to go against the current... I think well described characters is often important. While the vast majority of people here are encouraging you (and rightly so) to follow your vision, pointing out the advantages of your strategy, I'd like to point out some disadvantages. As some of the other answers mention, writing no physical description means the ...


1

TL;DR No, you are not obliged to do it, if your story works fine without it. As in all art forms the art lies in the reduction: an artist shouldn't use each and every color; a composer shouldn't tell every musician of an orchestra to go all-in all the time; A designer should sculpt the emptiness (aka whitespace); a sculptor should not sculpt every detail (...


5

Since your novel is already practically finished, you can ask your beta readers if no character descriptions works. Ultimately, that's the only way you can really know if something works or not. As others have pointed out, having no physical description of your characters can theoretically work. As an example, I have very little recollection of what the men ...


9

First, good for you, it is a good sign that you aren't feeling compelled to describe characters. To me, physical descriptions stalls the story, it is a lot of "telling", not showing. I always avoid prose that describes the physical characteristics of a person and does nothing else. IRL physical traits make a difference, and if they do, the reader must be ...


22

If their appearance doesn't matter to the story, then there's no need to bring it up. But if it does matter, the story can be confusing if you don't explain, and it can seem like cheating if you don't bring it up until the instant when it becomes relevant. For example, if you never describe George physically, and then half way through the book you suddenly ...


3

In this story you'll see I have two characters who are never named, never described, and only one of whom is assigned a gender. Since they have a clear working relationship and clear roles within the narrative they don't need further development to tell the tale. I have read a number of stories with little to no physical description of individual characters ...


6

These answers are all really good, so I'll just add a couple of things. Imagine your setting as a character. You've already personified it by making it "uncaring" and "hostile". Now, make it behave like an uncaring and hostile creature/character. Your setting can interact with your characters just like they I react with it. "As much as Mary was ...


4

It depends if their appearance has anything to offer/indicate about the character. If not, then I'm happy to go without, and I'm sure I'm not the only reader to think that. Generally speaking, my characters' appearances are described with the bare minimum to indicate something about the character. Muscular to the point of masculine woman: Someone who ...


2

There are some great answers here, but I'd like to add to them. My answer will probably be slightly based on the fact that I'm writing sci-fi myself. For over a year, I only spent time on world-building. At some point, I realized, that if I wanted people to experience the world I had developed, I needed characters and a story. My big question was still ...


4

The classic world-exploring story is a journey. Someone goes from one place to another, and along the way, they see a lot of the sights, and meet a lot of the people, and experience a lot of the culture of the world they live in. The key is to find a good reason behind the journey, and then also to make it transformative for the main character. The ...


3

A hard, uncaring world is a matter of perspective. If you're seeing it through the eyes of someone who loves it, it won't look bleak, no matter what the "objective" portrait of it might be. So you want to start with a person who feels isolated, lonely, vulnerable, exposed and alienated, and then describe the landscape through his or her eyes.


9

This really depends on the type of world you have in mind. It isn't quite clear from your question whether you are talking about e.g. alien planets that are hostile to all life (toxic, radiated wastelands), or whether you are talking about a civilization that has become cold and uncaring (cyberpunk-style). Since you want to know about stylistic devices you ...


5

While the other answers are great and focus on tangible assets of the world, I'll try and find an answer that focuses instead on stylistic elements. I would say that a good way to get across apathy and an inorganic, unfeeling world would be to describe things in a cold, technical, repetitive and clinical manner. Eschew any flowery language when describing ...


12

+1 to Ash, and I'd like to add another feature: lack of healthy life. If you really want to show that an environment is hostile, show that nothing pleasant can thrive there. Here are some suggestions for describing a city. Plants: No flowers (not even in window boxes). Any trees they might have planted are either dead or dying. Animals: With the exception ...


4

Uncaring. Harsh. Unforgiving. And a Sci-Fi setting? Well. It depends on what the deal is, but I'll offer some things I'd throw in to really show this world doesn't care for humans. Alien world. The places looking for employees, so think bars, clothing stores, fast-food restaurants. "Humans need not apply." Put up signs outside showing humans aren't welcome ...


1

Sara has a very good answer and it covers most of the ground I use but there are a couple of other ideas that don't seem to be there in the way I use them: Person: write about the life and times of a single individual, usually someone important, famous, or influential but even a month in the life of a common peasant, soldier, or sailor may be interesting if ...


11

Some elements that can be clearly seen and described occur to me: Graffiti is common where people feel disenfranchised, it seems to form an outlet for people who feel they don't have a voice. Dirt, filth is omnipresent when people don't care for the environment and people around them. This can be noted in both people's appearance, dirt on their cloths or ...


14

Out of the blue, I can count four ways to go about it. All assume that your world was created with one or more civilisations (meaning races, kingdoms, whatever). The first option is to focus on a community. It can be a neighbourhood in a large town or in a small town, it can be a village, a religious community (think something equivalent to a village for a ...


5

Think of the real world, the one in which we live. How do you grow a story out of it? The answer is there's plenty of stories, it's just a question of what interests you, what moves you, what kind of story you wish to tell. Your secondary world is the same. There are myriads of stories that can be set in it. It's all about what you're passionate about, ...


1

According to the Iceberg Theory, you: 1) Work it all out in detail, making sure YOU understand every aspect 2) Write into the story only what the characters experience, understand or think about. So, if it took you three weeks to work out trajectories, but your character only sees a flash of light, and hears a loud noise, that's all you write. But, if you ...


0

I've seen some authors handle this sort of problem by using a quasi-poetic flourish, a nod to the reader, hanging a lantern on the issue so to speak. Opening with something to say: I know you don't know when this is--Don't sweat it. Off the top of my head, brainstorming, I'd wonder about opening with something like: Timeless--it's the nature of conflict, ...


1

The best example of setting a scene like this that I know is from Children of Men (the movie). The movie starts with a news story headline along the lines of "Today, the youngest person in the world died at age 18." You instantly know almost everything you need to know about the setting, and how it differs from the world we know. Note that I stressed that ...


6

I suppose I can mention a year, but that would make the work dated the moment the year passes. I don't think it's really possible to do it without making reference to some time period. I would've thought the conflict you made reference to as having ended would be good enough, but I guess not. You said there are no technological changes - just using ...


2

I'm not sure what you want is possible. You can set the time to be a bit ahead of right now. And do it by outright stating the date as the story begins, mentioning the date organically in the story, or, as you state, by alluding to events that haven't actually happened (yet or at all). Or you can set the time to be a bit ahead of whenever the reader is ...


Top 50 recent answers are included