Learn from the Masters: Writing Good Character Descriptions

Yikes! I love “Perdito Street Station”, but I wouldn’t recommend it for character descriptions. China, in my opinion anyway, is not as adept at characters as he is at some other things. The main character in Perdito becomes a parody of himself in the second half, and he’s one of the few memorable personalities I’ve come across in China’s work. That said, I don’t mean to put him down at all. China is a masterful wordsmith, and his worldbuilding is absolutely jaw-dropping — truly inspiring, and I say that as a fellow weird fiction writer. But his characters . . .


I am currently reading Perdido Street Station by China Miéville for my master’s thesis. Yes, the progressive is deliberate – I’m still only half-way through. It is a long novel, but so far I’m really into it. (It’s also not an easy read, so I’m taking my time.) At one point, I came across what is probably one of the best character introductions or descriptions I have ever seen – and I wondered whether I could learn something from that in terms of my own fiction writing.

A character description does not need to be long or thorough – especially not for minor characters. In fact, I believe they’re most effective when they’re extremely concise and to the point. That might seem like it creates only one-dimensional personae, but there’s no reason why a short, snazzy description can’t evolve into a proper rounded character later on. But, as elsewhere in…

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