I’m on the third draft of my book, and working my way steadily through it. If the first draft was the skeleton, and the second putting flesh on the skeleton, the third is clothing the body, neatening it up, making it look nice, maybe giving it a touch of lipstick.
I try to keep three things in mind when doing this draft – what does he/she/it look like, what does he/she/it sound like, what does he/she/it smell like. Whilst I have a clear picture in my head of what is going on, I have to find a way to convey that picture to the reader.
I’ve been reading a lot of Agatha Christie lately (she is perfect for the convalescent reader!). She has a way of describing minor characters – those who just appear for a page or so – with one line. Nervous hands or scruffy coat or badly dyed hair for example. She has a gift for picking out the one detail of a person that gives a clue to their whole character. She also has a gift for giving characters their own voice – someone who only has a couple of lines to say still has their own unique speech pattern, their own accent, their own concerns. It makes even the most minor characters spring to life off the page.
It’s something I’m trying to do myself, with varying degrees of success. Each character, no matter how brief, gets a quick, one-line description. Hopefully the more I do it, the better I’ll get.