The items on which we choose to spend our hard-earned money tell a lot about us. The possessions with which we surround ourselves in our homes, leave inside our vehicles, and pack into our office spaces often present an interesting view of our personalities and values. When we view someone else’s possessions, we instantly and unconsciously form an opinion about them—and the same holds true for the characters in our books.
As authors, it pays for us to give special attention to our characters’ personal spaces. Their homes, cars, and cubicles all have the power to reveal much about their inner landscapes, if only we spend a few extra minutes dabbing in the details. Daphne du Maurier gives us a fine example of this in her delightful historical novel Jamaica Inn, in which she deftly shows us the sinister side of the albino vicar through a few simple items in the parsonage: ominous paintings with their faces turned to the wall and, hidden in his desk, a rough caricature of his parish as a herd of sheep and himself as the wolf.
Showing your character living in a rickety trailer house is good, but don’t stop there. If he’s a man obsessed with straight lines, who sees the world through a black and white viewfinder, perhaps you could illustrate this by exemplifying his neatnik tendencies inside his house. Don’t go overboard: adding descriptive details just for the sake of description is rarely a good idea. But by putting a little extra thought into the places your characters live and the things they choose to own, you can give readers extra insight into the personalities that fill your pages.
Cherie Burbach is a freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and relationships. You can find her work at places like About.com, NBC/Universal, Happen Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and more. She has also written thirteen nonfiction and poetry books.
Jody Bailey Day writes inspirational fiction from west Texas. Her debut novel, Washout Express, released June 2013 from Harbourlight Books. Her short stories, poems, devotionals, and articles have appeared in Mature Living, Splickety Magazine, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Southern Writers Magazine, and Christiandevotions.us, She is a two time Grand Prize Winner at the East Texas Christian Writers Conference, and a Faithwriters.com Best of the Best award winner. She and her pastor husband have six grown children and nine grandchildren.
Deborah Dee Harper writes from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, by way of Michigan, Kentucky, Alaska, Mississippi, and Alaska (again). Deb is a graduate of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild classes and writes Christian humorous and inspirational books for both children and adults. Her children’s adventure series, Laramie on the Lam, available in both e-book and print, is being re-published as six individual print books. Her Road’s End series (Misstep, Faux Pas, and Misjudge) for adults is also contracted and should be published soon. She is currently nearing completion on the first book of another series. She is represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency.
Jimmie A. Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories and more. His short story collection “The Prairie Dogs Have Coal Miner’s Helmets” is available through Amazon.
Lisa Lickel is an award-winning multi-published inspirational novelist, blogger, reviewer, and executive editor of Creative Wisconsin magazine. A freelance editor, Lisa loves all things historical. Her work has appeared in Writer's Digest and Christian Fiction Online.
Editor/Author Linda Yezak lives in a forest in east Texas with her husband and cats. She is a speaker/lecturer for various writers' groups and conferences. Her fiction books include Give the Lady a Ride and The Cat Lady's Secret. Her nonfiction books include Writing in Obedience, co-written with Hartline Literary agent Terry Burns.
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