An exercize in Characterization and Description

So I’ve been thinking about this exercize in which we try to use prose as a characterization method. So basically, you pick some simple item or an illustration, and describe it using at least two different characters’ pov (or the pov of the same character in two different moods).
This is a thread where we can do that exercise together! I’ll post an image / prompt bi-weekly, and we can get going from there. To make things challenging, we’re allowed to use only minimal setting and scenes, because this is more about how the character sees the object. The focus is on building voice and description, not plot or scene. You can change the illustration’s details to fit the time period your book is set in, though.

First one / example :
image

My answers:

Sara

Homely. It was a cozy little room, that looked like it hadn’t been used in weeks, abandoned knick-knacks lying below the shelves. Tiny ladders, soilders, playthings lay forgotten at the foot of the storage. Behind them, heavy, ornate tomes had been stuffed onto the shelves with no care for their cost and their creators. How many scribes had to write for hours to produce these many books?
She moved the candle closer to the shelves, her fingers trailing over the gold on the spines. So much work had gone into this one book…
She pulled it out, placing the candle on a shelf and opening the book in her hands. Someone had left another book open, it’s spine cracking over the spines of two other books. A third book lay sprawled on the shelf below, a chain - gold, no doubt - hung on it’s corner.

Malika

The room was tiny, claustrophobic, grimy. She sneezed, a hand rising to cover her mouth and nose and stepped closer to the bookcase. Her feet stepped on tiny knick-knacks, and she brushed them away, shuddering.
The bookshelf was disorganized and musty, and the books were arranged - well, they weren’t arranged at all, just pushed into empty spaces, parchment and chains hanging out of them. She picked up the book she needed and turned away, tiptoeing out of the musty room.

Example of what I mean by characterization in prose: Sara is someone who’s from a hardworking background, therefore, she notices the amount of work that’s gone into the books. Malika is someone who’s always lived a priviledged life surrounded by luxury, hence she doesn’t see the ornate and careful details.
Sara has lived in poverty, hence she thinks of it as cozy and notices all of the gold. Malika has lived in luxury, hence she notices none of it, and sees the room as musty and grimy.

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Did someone say exercise and description in the same sentence? :eyes:

I’ll try. I don’t promise to do well, haha.

Eddie

Eddie didn’t know whether someone was hired to organize the room, but if there was, he wished he had the authority to fire them. Everything about it irked him—books sitting atop each other instead of standing upright and side by side; small toys and other knick-knacks using up precious shelf space, or laying around discarded on the floor; and an open flame sitting dangerously close next to one of the tomes, and on a wooden shelf too. It was a recipe for disaster. Even as a child, he knew better than to put paper and fire in close proximity.

He shook his head. No, no, everything was wrong. He knelt before the shelf, removed the candle from it, and extinguished its flame before setting it on a nearby table. He then began removing all the books from the rack. He sneezed—he was allergic to dust. He piled the books next to him. As he began his work, he frowned in disgust—what kind of uncultured swine would leave books laying around in such a messy manner? Did they not know how to take care of books? It was only a matter of time before the pages would fall from the bindings. They weren’t even sorted! And the toys. They belonged in a separate place. He put those away too. He knew it was going to take long, but he didn’t care. Every book deserved a comfortable shelf.

Jon

It looked like a scene out of a children’s book. All the books were thick, clothed in fancy leather jackets, and looked as though they held either the wisdom of a thousand years or epic tales from the old ages. He didn’t bother with the books. A good chunk of them were too thick for his liking; he would probably drop them out of boredom before he’d have read them halfway.

What really caught his eye were the toys. They may not be magical, but they were enchanting. He picked some of them up. He could imagine them coming to life a la Toy Story. Maybe they would, if he left the room for a little bit. They did have a special vibe about them.

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Ooh that was interesting to read!
Eddie seems old and grumpy XD
John seems young and full of wonder!

Yay! It’s not about doing good, hehe, it’s about getting to know your character and letting them get to know their surroundings! And that’s precisely why this is an exercize, because then you can try again with different things!

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Thanks! :smiley:

:rofl: Eddie is the oldest of the team, but he’s not that much older. He’s just a year older than Jon and two years older than the youngest member of the trio. He’s a perfectionist and a rich kid who needs everything to be perfect :joy: Jon’s the one who’s most in touch with his inner child. He’s not into reading, so he’s like “Meh, book. Oooh, toys!” XD

Glad to know that. I could definitely use this exercise because I have a character who’s going to star in my next book, but I don’t know him as well as the others, so I want to flesh him out more before I have to write him, haha.

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Hellen (aka Cinderella) St. Murdere

Nude smoking was only possible in this hidden room because I kept the lounge pristine enough for my derriere. The shelving system was another beast altogether. Books left as my father had placed them before his death, coated in over a decade of dust bonded by a hint of grease from the tallow candles dispersing fats into the air.

I think that my father built the shelves in this room himself–as hapahazard as his life was. Occasionally, I would want to read them, but then I remembered the decision I made the first day I crawled found the room: if we get caught out following in his footsteps, the age of dust on the book means that something my father did long ago couldn’t be used on me as evidence.

He didn’t have a dumb girl, and Mamman tolerated stupid even less than you would expect out of a woman who leaves her stepdaughter to cleaning the hearth fires.

Besides, there’s a sense of satisfaction I get from seeing a room that I can say no to slaving over.

Phillip du Thé, through Hellen's perspective

Once du Thé peeled his eyes away from me–and the caucophany of emotions he held for my dishevelment–he took in the small room at one glance. “Marçon: only take out things that have been cleaned any time recently and bring them to my personal room. From the smell in here, the candles were tallow, and even things more recent will be coated. I want everything boxed in depth of dust as well as distance from the candles, make detailed notes–take out a measure to be sure. I will be in my room with this woman until you’ve completed your work.”

Given how many things were on the shelves, it would take several hours to finish. What did this bastard intend to do with me during all that wasted time, frustrate me further?

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Oooh. Interesting!

Yup. Exercising writing is always a good idea!

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Okay wow, these are really interesting

It fits what I’m working on, even. Lol

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I’ve done a similar excercise before. Very fun.

Urainia

It was in the older section of the library. Some of the seasonal sprites like to visit in the winter, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them they couldn’t. Astera made them some beeswax candles, but I always worried they’d set the tomes on fire.
Just because they haven’t yet doesn’t mean they ever will!

Umbrum

I was searching for a book on pre-landing history but found the library sprites reading it. Worse, the light from the candle was shining in my eyes.
Why do they need a candle? They glow on their own!!

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Erin

The room made her want to cry, scream, then run away. Erin had spent more than enough of her time in libraries to last the rest of her life. Studying, eating, sleeping, ugh. All of it was so boring. She was pissed at having to be secluded to a small, dank room with nothing but dust and ancient garble for company. The last thing she ever wanted to see again was another book-- especially old, gross musty ones.

Toys lay scattered about, and the shelf lays in unorganized chaos, probably messed up by some snot nosed brat. Erin glanced around the room cautiously at that thought, praying she hadn’t just been shut in a room with a child. Thankfully, there was no peep nor squeak of another living thing.

Some idiot has lit a candle and placed it on the bookshelf, next to an unsteady book waiting to fall over. She takes a moment to imagine the entire room engulfed in flames, burning to ash. She smiles to herself, then blows out the candle and takes a seat on the floor in front of the bookshelf.

Letting out a long-suffering sigh, she presses her back to the bookshelf, stretches out her legs comfortably, and falls quickly asleep.

Keller

Keller liked little nooks like this. It reminded him of his mother. She never spent much time with him, always confined in her little reading room, hunched over a book, sipping on a cup of tea. It was warm. He wouldn’t mind waiting here for a little while.

However, as his gaze lashes over the messy stacks of books, carelessly shoved into place and toys scattered about he can’t help but feel a bit angry. How could someone treat their books like this? He shakes his head, waving a candle at the collection.

Curiosity gets the better of him, and he squats down to read the titles, marveling over the vast collection of books–some of them rare editions. His fingers lovingly caress the spines. Dust spilling off it, scattering onto the wood shelf below.

He smiles as he runs his finger over a familiar title. Looping his finger around the spine, he gently pulls it out and places it into his lap. The Velveteen Rabbit. His heart aches a little, but he tries to ignore it as he sits down, and opens the book to page one. If he’s going to be here for a while, he may as well take a trip down memory lane.

Both characters are from the same story. Erin is a main character. Keller is her best friend. Erin hates books, reading, studying, etc. and Keller doesn’t quite mind it as much.

Edit: I typed this out, but it accidentally got deleted ahhh. Anyway, just wanted to say that this is a really cool exercise. This was pretty tough for me to genuinely think in depth about, especially where Erin’s concerned, lmao. Looking forward to more!

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Ahh. Nice! Urainia seems practical, and annoyed at the same time, but also really kind.
Umbrum is definitely annoyed, and maybe a little bitter, too?

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Umbrum has severe photo sensitivity, bright light hurts his eyes a lot.

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Yup! The best part is that it makes you think how your character would describe something specifically based on their own prefernces and their history, so I love this, too!

Erin seems like she’s in her teens, based on the voice, and she also seems to be in a slightly bad mood. Also, the tense of Erin’s piece changed halfway through

Kellen is very interesting! His mother seems like a very nostaglic point for him, and he seems to be very passionate about books. And his first para is in past tense and the rest of it in present…

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Oooh, that makes sense!

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Here’s exercise two!

Description for the visually impaired

In the foreground, a man stands off the edge of a cliff, tress in front of him, a narrow road behind him. He faces away from us, his head tilted up to see two great rocks rising out of the forest below the cliffs, behind and between which we see smaller rocks on either side of a doorway. From further behind the doorway rises a great tree, it’s trunk wavy, with branches big enough to be trees on their own. The great tree rises through the clouds, the sun’s rays spilling from the top branches and towards the man.

My answers:

Sara

She stood at the edge of the cliff, trying not to look down, fighting the wave of nausea coming over her. Once she finally felt like she wouldn’t sway and fall down, she opened her eyes, and closed them again instantly. The sun was too bright, and she could barely see. Slowly, this time, she eased her eyes open, letting them adjust to the light.
She breathed in the fresh air, invigourated. Before her rose two great monolith rocks, as if plams from between which rose a great tree, reaching out to the heavens with it’s branches, staggeringly tall. She had to sheild her eyes as she looked up, because the light was coming from between the branches, and she couldn’t even see where it ended and the sky began.
She wished she didn’t have to climb it. It would be the death of her. The cliff was already making her nauseous, and the great scale of the tree would only make her feel ten times worse.
But then she didn’t really have a choice.
She sighed, tugging at the satchel hanging from her shoulders, and jumped into the trees.

Malika

Malika’s eyes roamed around the scene, her eyes drinking it in. She breathed in the fresh air, turning around slowly, a smile on her face. Her hands played with the wisps of morning fog all around her, and she stepped forward on the cliffside, looking down.
The ground was a dizzying height away from her, and somehow that made her feel free. There was no one nearby for miles. She could do whatever she wanted and no one would care. So, she screamed.
Back in the temple, she never really had to scream, she wasn’t allowed to. And speaking calmly was enough to intimidate people even when she gave them a cold stare. She’d never used to vocal chords to their fullest, and it felt liberating to shout to the full capacity of her lungs.
She laughed, looking up at the sun as it shone through the top of the tree before her. It was cursed, the locals had told her, and the rocks before it were impossible to cross, they said.
But nothing had ever been impossible for her.
She was Malika, vessel of Devasena, child of the temple.
She was a goddess.

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Urainia

Finally, I could see that the hike was worth it. The prehistoric ruins were eroded majestically, jutting through the thick fog. Behind them was the tree. The Great Tree, The First Tree. Older than most human civilizations, crooked but still with leafy buds.

I felt the wind in my hair and the calm, serene light of early morning as I ran over the grey fog clouds, into the stone gates.

Umbrum

From the topmost branches of the ancient tree came the bright light of early morning. Harsh and blinding, I was not supposed to be here. Or, something didn’t want me here.

The tree itself? Possible, it was older than it had any right to be. It having magical properties was not out of the question.

Bad timing? Also possible.

I was not about to advance in with these conditions. It was simply too late to bother.

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Jon

Everything around him felt surreal.

And scary.

Well first he was on the edge of a cliff, which was already frightening on its own. Though he could technically fly, it was one of those moments that was so shocking, it made him forget that his ring imbued him with superhuman abilities. The ground beneath him was quaking. Jon’s heartbeat spiked; the very ground beneath his feet might fall off, which meant that he might fall off. He looked back, only for his heart to pound harder—the path behind him was already crumbling.

Rocks were rising before him, and they looked foreboding. Was someone lifting them through magic or telekinesis? Did he disturb an evil force which caused it to lift them off the ground? Was he witnessing the start of a great calamity, one where nature and magic would join forces to wreak havoc on the world? The last time he saw rocks flying off the ground was in the middle of a battle. He almost got crushed.

What confused him the most was the tree. It was a very big tree; the branches themselves were as large as the trees he would see back on Earth. He wasn’t sure if it was being uprooted or whether it was really growing that big. In either case, it was awe-inspiring. It reached towards the sky, its crown blocking much of the sunlight that was shining down on him.

Then he saw smaller rocks, and in the middle of them, a stone gate. Where it led to, he knew not, but he hoped he would not have to pass through it. He could just imagine an ancient burial ground lying beyond the stone wall, or the abode of a deadly beast, or something else more sinister. The gate was wide open, beckoning, inviting him to enter, but his gut told him to refuse. There was something ominous about the stone structure that he could not put his finger on.

The land beneath him gave way. Jon summoned a disk shield, landed on it, and steadied himself in the air. Fear filled him at once.

He would have to go through the stone gate.

Stella

(first, a disclaimer: she is a completely different persona and not a self-insert, in case you were wondering)

The universe had always filled her with a sense of wonder, but at this very moment, she had never been more awed.

The world shook as a giant tree rose from the land before her, dwarfing her. She thought there were several trees growing in front of her, but upon closer inspection, she realized that those were branches. It took her breath away—the tree was humungous! She wondered how high the tree could reach. It was already tall enough to pierce through the clouds and obscure the sun. Maybe she would even see the very base of its thick trunk, and it might be wide enough for her to reach out to it without moving from her spot.

Soon she saw that the rumbling was also caused by the rising of great rocks. They rose, upright, as though a divine hand from above was picking them up and putting them in place. Their sheer size and rectangular shape reminded her of Stonehenge, but Stonehenge was not comparable to what was happening before her very eyes. She peered between the two rocks. There was a wall of smaller rocks behind them, and in the middle, a stone gate. Her curiosity peaked. What stood beyond the gate? Did it lead to the great tree that was growing in front of her? Was it another portal to another realm?

Though the mist shrouding her surroundings oozed ominousness, she could not help but be compelled to explore the world in front of her. Even if danger awaited her, she was no stranger to it. She had her magical bracelet to help her out anyway. After all, her team was called the Realm Seekers for a reason.

The cliff crumbled. Stella leaped, summoned a force field, and rode it towards the gate.

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OOH those are great!

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Ooh Jon and Stella seem really interesting! Jon seems really practical, maybe the kind of guy who sees the foreboding in everything. Stella seems really optimistic and adventurous. Maybe even idealstic?

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Yeah, Stella’s definitely adventurous. She’s the kind of person who’d get lost exploring a new place, except even if she gets lost she can always find her way back because she has a good sense of direction. She loves to see and explore the world around her.

Jon can be excited or scared when something surreal happens. It depends on the context. In this case, the floating rocks remind him of that time he almost got crushed by floating rocks during a battle, so he gets scared instead of awed :sweat_smile: not to mention the mist and the darkness around him. Quite spooky.

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