When you think about a person in your mind you can visualise the way they look as well as recognise the subtle traits in their personality, attitude and outlook.
You can imagine everything which makes up the whole sum of a person.
In fiction we are told not to describe a person’s hair, eye colour, etc, simply because it’s no longer fashionable to go into such direct detail.
Fiction has over the years transformed reader’s tastes and we have learned that we don’t actually need to know the smaller details in order to engage with and get to really know a character. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use these details of description at all, but the more vivid and interesting those details are, the more chance your character will be memorable in a reader’s mind.
Some of the simple ways you can make your characters more life-like and interesting is to find unusual ways to describe them.
For instance; a person is not just made up of a torso, four limbs and a head. There are thousands of different tiny physical differences to each individual.
Generally we look directly at a person’s eyes when communicating, so we miss out on a lot of them.
If you happened to be writing about an old man, think about his features in closer depth. Pock marks, sagging jaw, heavily lidded eyes. Is there a way you can describe these with more interest?
Perhaps you can paint the character of an old man by showing how he… stoops over his cane allowing his back to form a smooth hill. Isn’t that more interesting to read than simply saying the old man had an arched back?
Showing a character to your reader by dropping in actions which they perform is a trick most good writers use in their story-telling.
Here is another example:
The waiter was tall. He carried the tray to the table.
Swap the above sentence for:
A young girl at the table giggled as an approaching waiter ducked beneath a hanging ceiling light.
In the second example you are showing the reader how tall the waiter is through the eyes of a background character without actually saying it outright.
Remember, a well pictured character drawn on good description will stick in the reader’s mind long after she/he has finished your book.