One of the best bits of writing advice I ever got was from my brother who, at the time he gave it, was involved in theater design. He told me (very strongly) that… everything single thing I wrote in my novel had to be relevant to the character or the plot.
Now, this may seem obvious to most of you, but how often do you ruthlessly pare your novel so that NOTHING that isn’t relevant to character development or the story survives?
Okay, in the novel he was reading (and, in my defense, this was a long, long time ago), I dressed one of my characters in “brown pants and a yellow shirt.” My brother couldn’t figure out the kind of person I was describing. Someone with terrible fashion sense? Or someone in disguise? Or did the character like yellow because he was a cheerful sort of person – in which case, why the brown pants? Was he a delivery man?
The fact that this character was introduced during a cruise cocktail party made that unlikely.
I couldn’t defend the clothes I picked. Ever since then I’ve dressed my characters in clothes appropriate to their personality. I’ve also made sure that I’ve given them props in their rooms or offices that matter to their stories. Every single thing matters.
There are many ways to enhance your stories or articles by using details that may appear arbitrary, but that infuse your character with personality or subtley play on our emotions.
For example, use color to describe temperament. If a character has a hot temper, dress her in red. If she’s a calm sort of type, make sure she’s got a blue head band on.
Use flavor or fragrance to describe mood. The delicate, elusive fragrance of violets is different to the headiness of sweet jasmine. If there’s tension and fear, make sure there’s something bitter around or something metal.
Weather is a fabulous way to create emotion. Thunderstorms are classic examples, a serene summer day is another. But you can get more descriptive and evoke the situation much more vividly by describing heat and chill, night or day, clouds, stars, and the quality of the earth beneath your feet.
Details make all the difference. Here’s an aspect many writers overlook: jewelry. Take a look at what kind of jewelry your protagonist is wearing. An emerald pinky ring? Do diamonds drip from her ear lobes? A simple gold wedding band? Something rare and extraordinary, like alexandrite? Gemstones have strong vibrations and are known for the influence they have on the wearer. So use them to describe your character.
Here are a few descriptions I’ve come up with that you can use to enhance your character’s personality (most of these are from research that I did when I wrote A Perfect Gem):
If your character wears jasper, he or she might be a powerful healer. Jasper is a stone of courage and independence. It is known for its ability to ease stress and to bring emotional stability. All jaspers – no matter what color – balance your energy and protect from fear and negativity, making you feel relaxed and secure.
Pearls symbolize emotional balance and tranquility. Usually pale white or cream-colored, pearls can also be found in dark blue, gray, and even black. A character who wears them may seem serene and traditional – pearls can also be used to ease stress and irritation, so someone who’s trying to calm down could reach for her pearls.
Peridot, a light green gem of the springtime, can be used to open new doors. It also helps in relieving stress, anxiety, and guilt, and to activate personal growth. Your character could use it to protect against negativity or depression.
Carnelian is an energy-booster. With its deep red to red-orange hue, the stone is associated with wealth and nobility. Hold a carnelian and feel your energy increase. Carnelian helps remove insecurities so that your character’s inner light can shine out and be seen by others. It also brings out qualities of humor and calm.
Amber also has soothing and warming properties. If you’re seeking a way to bring more joy into your character’s life, use amber – it will bring him lightness and equilibrium.
Turquoise is the symbol of friendship, as well as a symbol of wealth. One of the oldest protection amulets, it can be used to overcome shyness or over-sensitivity. It brings peace to the home and wisdom to the wearer. Your character can wear it to heal feelings of despair and sadness.
Citrine is known as the lucky “merchants’ stone.” It can increase self-esteem, protect from negative energy, open your mind to new thoughts and opportunities, and bring love and joy in the process.
Jade strengthens your mental agility and clarity of reason. Use it to bring you happiness, to attract love, and even money: its prosperous energy will help when you are contemplating your next plan of action. It is also a protective stone, guarding against accidents and misfortune.
Use the brilliant aquamarine to show someone who has tremendous courage and strength. This gem also symbolizes happiness in relationships. Aquamarine can be used to inspire trust, harmony, and friendship. Sailors believed it would protect them on their sea voyages.
Deep red garnets symbolize good health, faithfulness, and imagination. They can help make a business successful, and they are excellent travel protectors. They bring constancy to friendships. Above all, the garnet is a stone of purity, truth, and compassion. What your character learns from using garnets may be difficult, but it will strengthen her inwardly.
Diamonds vibrate with purity, harmony, and love, and brings abundance and prosperity.
Rubies inspire energy, ardor, and power. You can use these fiery gems to ignite strong passion in your character.
The deep blue of lapis lazuli shimmers with golden pyrites. A stone of friendship and truth, it encourages harmony in relationships and the wearer to be authentic and honest. It strengthens self-awareness and creativity. Because of its high vibrational intensity, it needs to be used only with sincere love and wisdom.
Amethyst can transform energy and instill inner peace, wisdom, and healing. Place an amethyst in a sunlit window to dispel negativity in the home. Place it in moonlight and everyone will feel calmer. Amethyst helps overcome fears and cravings and even helps relieve headaches. It is a stone of friendship.
Sapphires stir feelings of sympathy and harmony, friendship and loyalty. They’ll help your character find expression for her deepest soul longings.
Emeralds vibrate with emotion. They help to attract wealth, to make dreams come true, and act as a symbol of hope. A gem of prophecy, reason, and wisdom, emeralds can be used to heal the physical heart, as well as to bring true love.
Extremely rare, alexandrite is one of the hardest gemstones in existence. It changes color depending on the light: it can be pale red or red-purple, or green or blue-green depending on the time of day. It also changes from violet to green, or from pale azure to gold. Use this magical crystal to open your character’s heart, to build her self-esteem and self-confidence. It brings spiritual love, joy, great good fortune, and opens the way to knowing one’s higher self.