J.D. Salinger illustrated a character in a mere seven words: “efficient-looking woman in a limp felt hat.”
The combination of concrete detail (the hat) with an expressive general assessment (efficient-looking) is a great trick for quickly sketching a character.
There’s only one problem: seven is too wordy.
So take the principle and condense it. Instead of two contrasts of a few words each, find two words only, one concrete, one general, to define your flash character.
Is she the “fussy notetaker” or “efficient recorder?” Is he a “jovial drunk” or a “slurring boozer?” Are they a “jocular group” or “noisy gang?”
Flash Fic Advisory #6: Define characters in two words. Or less.
[Note: I won't link to unauthorized online reprints of For Esme - With Love and Squalor, but if you haven't read it, track it down in a Salinger anthology, or subscribe to the New Yorker archive: it is an amazing read.]
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