Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winner! Best “Showing Character Growth” of the Week!

“Chasing the Sun” & the Use of Physical Description to Show Character Growth!

Editors want to be able to ‘see’ characters grow in a story. I enjoy reading vivid physical descriptions in novels. This is something I feel is a lost art in today’s novels. Authors tell me that today “everyone knows what everything looks like and you don’t need much in description.” I don’t agree. I read Betty Neels and Lucy Gordon largely for the beautiful descriptions.

In the below passage, Kaki Warner, uses landscape description to show character growth. This is a wonderful technique. The hero, Jack Wilkins, is riding home after three years away. Some of those years were spent at sea. The location is in the high mountains in New Mexico.

Chasing the Sun
(15% of the way into the story. Sorry no page numbers on Kindle!)

It was late afternoon when he rode out of the trees and onto the rolling flats that were the heart of the ranch. Twice as long as it was wide, the dished basin stretched for miles from one rising slope to the other. Yet as he rode slowly across it, the valley seemed smaller than he remembered.

Maybe it was because he’d spend so many months at sea, where the horizon hung at the far edge of the world, flat and undisturbed. Unconfining. Here, the mountains brought it closer, creating a looming barrier that reduced vision to a few miles and blotted out almost half the sky. Yet, strangely that old feeling of entrapment wasn’t as strong as it had been when he’d left. Probably because he’d escaped this country once, and he knew if he had to, he could do it again. Smiling, he kicked the horse into a lope. Or maybe he was just homesick and gland to be back.

This is an amazing passage. The character, after three years away, literally ‘sees’ the world differently! And the reader gets to see that world through the character’s eyes. This also adds credibility to the character’s time at sea.

Reading “Chasing the Sun” is like a creative workshop in how to write exceptionally well. I’m only 28% into the book and I’m in awe of the writer’s skill. Read this book!


  1. Again, a heartfelt thanks for the generous words, Vince. I wish I could say it was all me, but in truth, my characters pretty much write their own stories. I know. Clearly, I'm insane.

    I appreciate hearing your take on it--you always inspire.

  2. Hi Kaki:

    If your characters think on their own as well as Jack does in the above passage, then you’re also a great casting director!