I spend too much time in front of drive-thru windows buying fast food and coffee. More time than I’d like to admit. One drive-through lady nicknamed me “coffee girl”. When she told me, see you tomorrow, I knew I had a problem.
I’m ashamed of being recognized as a regular who buys coffee every day and who can’t be a responsible adult by preparing her meals. Despite this shame, the time in front of drive-thru windows has taught me a lot about people’s personalities and characteristics which I find useful when writing characters or describing people.
The Writing Advice
You become a better writer by being better observer. To write better character descriptions, start by paying attention to how drive-thru attendants serve you.
When I think of the best customer service experiences I’ve had in front of drive-thru windows, there are details in customer service styles that standout.
Memorable attendants call you endearing names like “sweetie”. They treat you like you’re family. Others look at you and greet you with so much enthusiasm that you don’t mind filling out the surveys they ask you to take. Yet, others speak in a monotone voice and look at you with eyes without shine.
When describing characters, ask yourself: what details make a character different from all others? What’s their tone of voice? What words is the character known for saying?
What details will make the reader picture a clear image of the character, so that if every reader of the same story were to draw the character, the drawings would turn out consistent from the descriptions?
The core of this writing tip is to be more observant of the world around you. A creative writing professor once recommended us to go to places with the sole intention of journaling about our observations once there. If you don’t have time for that, notice the subtle and not so subtle differences between your friends, customers, coworkers, students, and family members. What makes them them?
Join the Conversation:
What are your tips for writing characters or describing people?