Reflecting on Part 2 – Characters and Settings

In Assignment 2, we have been writing character sketches, describing how characters look, what they wear, and trying to bring in all the senses to give full idea of how this character appears and what they are like. It feels like a continuation of describing an object or animal in Assignment 1.

I find it takes me a while to find the character. I have to write a lot in order to get to the nub of the personality. Sometimes I need to leave the character sketch for a few days and go back to it.

We have also put these characters into settings. These settings help us to describe the character. I have to write these up separately first and then start to put them together. It is almost like dancing or watching a river flow trying to get the character to merge with their setting so that they sing/fly.

I am not sure there is any magic formula except to keep practicing and keep writing. Some days are better than others. I find it easier to write a character sketch of someone I do not know. I also find it easier to describe a setting or a possession, but this might be because it is similar to the exercises we were doing in Part 1.

Assignment 1 – Feedback – Reflections

For this assignment, the feedback was positive. Comments were made regarding improvements to the poems and prose. The main areas of improvement were given with regard to the reflection essay.

The first suggestion was that there should only be one idea per sentence. In practicing this, the sentences sound abrupt and choppy. It is hard to improve the sentences so that they have only one idea in them and do not all begin with “he.” More practice is needed.

Another idea was to not allow description so floral it overwhelms the reader. Freewriting has provided many unique ways to describe an object, person, or animal. It is very easy to be carried away and want to use all the descriptions. At the revising stages, these descriptions need to be whittled down. Too much description can stop the flow of the story. It was suggested the books “Engelby” and “Lolita” were read as strong examples of how descriptive prose can be used without slowing the story down.

Misuse of tense was pointed out. This is a matter of proofreading accurately and being more careful.

It was further proposed that the story clearly shows the reader where the character is in the scene. It takes practice to take a vision in the mind and recognise if this image has been shown precisely in written stories and poems.

Finally, feedback was given regarding the reflective essay. The comments were very useful, particularly regarding removing pronouns. Especially, helpful was the example of what a reflective essay should look like. This example was followed in this essay. Continued practice should improve future essays.

To conclude, the feedback given was straightforward and easy to follow. Going forward, practice is needed in order to assimilate the tools learned in Assignment 1 and the tutor’s feedback. The challenge will be to integrate these along with the new tools that will be acquired in Assignment 2.

Stephen King – Moonbeams

Making my first attempt at a reflective essay, I found myself floundering. Trying to explain what I do, how I do it, what worked, etc., is an analytical skill I am still developing.

So you can guess how happy I was when I read an interview with Stephen King. He is asked about opening lines. He said “There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line. It’s tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don’t think conceptually while I work on a first draft — I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar.”

There – he said it. He described exactly the difficulty I have as “trying to catch moonbeams in a jar.” Or another one I have heard is “trying to nail jelly to a wall!” But I will continue to try. I will conquer this. I will prevail.

He continued to explain about opening lines in pure inimitable Stephen King fashion: “But there’s one thing I’m sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.”

Character – Arthur on Bike – Draft

Black curly hair – wavy

Very full hair cut – short but full with a low parting on side – would be called floppy these days but then I’m not sure and it would be floppy if it was not so wavy

High cheekbones

Long face

Small nose and chin

Could be called handsome or dashing

Pleasing features – features play nicely together

Long ears

Large ear lobes

Long neck

White shirt – sleeves rolled up NEATLY to the elbow

Dark eyes

Wonky grin – grinning with teeth gritting like he is making a noise or making an effort or pretending to make an effort

He is on a motorbike so he could be pretending to ride it and the teeth could be making the noise of the engine and looking like he is exerting himself for the camera – posing



Long socks – think with a NEAT turn down at the top – again long thick socks in what could be hot weather (the guy in the background has no shirt on)

Smart laced up shoes – small NEAT feet

Small hands – long fingers

Solid knees

Compact build – all his body parts are equal – what is that when they are all equal.

Slender – small frame

On a motorbike – old but it is an old photo so it probably is not old when the photo was taken

Single front light

Man in background – no top on which denotes heat – it is hot but Arthur has his shirt on. Guy in background has army fatigues – so military probably

Hut in background

He has always been very neat and well put together. Always shaved and this picture says that. It is obviously hot but he has a smart shirt and long thick socks on.

Shaven – he might have a moustache – not sure the photo is dark on his face

He looks tanned (b&w photo)

Looks Italian

His looks are reminiscent of ____________ (say something Italian)



Photo of an old man – Draft

A battered, sunbleached sun hat covers his head.

His grey hair is plaited over his ears.

The plais fall to his shoulders.

Eyes are deep slits within folds of skin

His brow is wrinkled

Nose is flat and points down towards his mouth

A full grey beard covers his lower face.

His face is deeply tanned.

Mouth open as if talking.

Multi-coloured wooden and stone beads around his neck.

Wearing a cream cotton jumper

Has a coral tee shirt on under his jumper.

Has a cotton jacket with no collar over his shoulders.

The jacket is grey.

He smiles and squints into the sunshine.

He is gathering wood in the forest for fuel.

He has a gap between his front teeth.

He picks up the wood from the ground and puts it into a pile. He binds the pile with twine leaving a loop to put over his body. The bundle sits on his back.

He squints into the sun and smiles at me.

“good morning,” he says, “beautiful day.” He nods at the sky.

The bundle is too heavy for him. He wobbles off towards the horizon.


I am finding that I am not quite so flamboyant in my initial trials with the character sketches as I was with descriptions in Assignment 1. I will keep trying and see if I can fly like I did before.

I also find that I am too worried about setting them in a scene before fully characterising them. I need to just let go and elaborate the character first.

I think I am holding back because of something my tutor said in his response to my assignment 1. I will have to re-read that and see what it was. But I know he would not say hold back at draft level. He could have said hold back at final level.

I think the most difficulty I have is with people I know. If it is a picture I have of someone I do not know, I seem to be able to make these wild stories about them, but if it is someone I know, I cannot.

I need to remember to add the other senses into my characters especially smell – perfume, tobacco, baby wipes, disinfectant, etc. Senses are hear, taste, smell, sight, touch.

Also I should add things about the person’s character rather than how they look. What are they like and how can I describe them in that fashion. What are their character defects? What is interesting about them? Next time add these things.