I had a creative writing professor who told us we shouldn’t use more than two words to describe a character’s physical appearance.

He also told us we needed to make sure any actions we described were uniquely poetic and never repeated.

Let me tell you, people who give you advice like this specialize in short stories and flash fiction. This tip is wonderful for someone who’s writing a 3-7 page narrative with a cast of two or three named characters.

Do not let people make you feel bad for going in depth about the texture of your character’s hair. Don’t let them deter you from describing his skin tone and complexion or her height and fashion sense. Don’t let them make you feel anxious about simply stating a character “raised an eyebrow” or “smiled” without flowery additions.

You’re writing a novel. You have more than seven pages to work with, and a little detail and repetition won’t detract from your story. Let me tell you, there are only so many unique ways to describe a character’s smile, and when you have 50,000 words to work with, trying to make each mention special and beautiful gets old fast. For both writing and reading the story.

For most readers, the draw of a novel isn’t the writing style (though, a nice writing style is always a bonus). It’s the plot.

Hone your plotting skills. Learn your characters. Make them real, and worry about the flowery stuff later. As long as your personal writing style isn’t confusing or distracting, it shouldn’t be your main focus until you’ve gotten the hang of these other things. 

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