Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Character Descriptions – Lessons from Jane Austen

by Aurora Springer

I recommend the novels of Jane Austen for examples of memorable characters and romance stories with long lasting impact. Jane Austen wrote her stories more than 200 years ago, yet they are still read and loved today. Why are her books so readable? One reason is that Jane described ordinary people in ordinary settings. You will not find details of historical dress or mannerisms. In many ways, she was a very modern writer, her works lack the florid, emotional, and lengthy descriptions employed by the Victorian authors.

Her stories were romances, filled with her unique light hearted and caustic wit. Her characters resonate today. Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” fits the romantic ideal, even among modern young women. He is tall, handsome and wealthy. Many of Jane’s male romantic characters, however, were not wealthy landowners, tall or handsome. Several were clergymen of modest means. In “Sense and Sensibility,” Edward Ferrars rejected his wealthy inheritance when he refused to marry the woman his mother chose. He followed his principles, even though he could not wed Elinor, the woman he loved, because he was engaged to an inferior woman due to a youthful infatuation. A love triangle! The male leads in Jane’s stories demonstrate heroism by doing what is right, despite the personal disadvantages.

How did Jane Austen create her memorable characters? Her stories rely on dialogue with little action. She gives minimal physical description. Instead, she describes distinct personalities that we recognize from our everyday lives. Her descriptions are pithy; she can define a character in a single, eloquent sentence.

Here is her first description of Mr. Darcy at a ball: “Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance of his having ten thousand a year.” A billionaire romance! But, Jane has set him up for a rapid fall: “…he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity…” Even his ten thousand does not save him.

In contrast, look at Edward Ferrars in “Sense and Sensibility”: “He was not handsome, and his manner required intimacy to make them pleasing.” In fact, he is shy and awkward, and possibly the least likeable love interest in Jane Austen’s stories.

If we follow the example of Jane Austen, we should emphasize the personality of our characters and minimize the physical details. Cattell’s 16 factors may inspire ideas -(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/16PF_Questionnaire#Raymond_Cattell.27s_16_Personality_Factors). Of course, in science fiction, we often need detailed descriptions for aliens or other worlds. The great advantage of emulating Jane Austen is that much of the narrative falls into place once the personality of the character crystallizes in your mind. You can imagine how they will react to other characters and the conflicts in the story. I love that moment of insight when I can begin to compose the scenes of the book.

Aurora Springer’s latest release is GRAND MASTER’S PAWN.


A thousand years in the future, wars and portal failures disturb the fringes of the galaxy. On Terra, twenty-two year old Violet Hunter seems an ordinary student of the Space Academy, who dreams of exploring unknown planets. She applies to serve as the pawn of one of the twelve Grand Masters, although her hidden talent of empathy makes her ineligible. Violet has defied the prohibition against psychics for half her life. Why should she stop now?

Isolation is the penalty for a Grand Master’s great power because their touch is deadly to a normal person. The Grand Master with the griffin avatar selected the girl with the star-shaped birthmark in spite of her father’s dire prophesy. He is suspicious about his disobedient pawn, yet he cannot deny the success of her missions to strange planets where she finds more than he expected.

Violet seeks the truth about the mysterious Grand Masters. Who or what are they? Do they threaten or benefit civilization? While searching for answers, Violet does the unthinkable. She makes a bargain with her obnoxious Grand Master and challenges him to meet her face to face, risking her secret to discover his purpose. She plunges into an impossible love and a world of intrigues. She needs all her new powers and allies to survive the vicious conflicts and save her newfound love.


Aurora Springer spent her career in science describing new discoveries in research articles. In 2014, morphing from scientific research into fiction, she achieved her life-long ambition to publish her stories. Her works are character-driven romances set in weird worlds of science fiction and fantasy with a sprinkle of humor. She was born in the UK and lives in Atlanta with her husband, a dog and two cats to sit on the laptop. Her hobbies, besides reading and writing, include outdoor activities like watching wildlife, hiking and canoeing.

Media links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Aurora-Springer/e/B00K2C4NL8

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are solely that of the author and not of the SFR Brigade.

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