Here’s a description by the well-loved children’s author Roald Dahl:

” Mr Twit was one of these very hairy-faced men. The whole of his face except for his forehead, his eyes and his nose, was covered with thick hair. The stuff even sprouted in revolting tufts out of his nostrils and ear-holes. Mr Twist felt that his hairiness made him look terrifically wise and grand. But in truth he was neither of these things. Mr Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And now at the age of sixty, he was a bigger twit than ever. The hair on Mr Twit’s face didn’t grow smooth and matted as it does on most hairy-faced men. It grew in spikes that stuck out straight like the bristles of a nailbrush. And how often did Mr Twit wash his bristly nailbrush face of his? The answer is NEVER, not even on Sundays. He hadn’t washed it for years.”

Excerpted from “The Twits” by Roald Dahl

Questions

1. What impression do you have of Mr Twit?

  • handsome and dashing
  • very well groomed
  • dignified
  • filthy and disgusting

2. Underline and number all the details which support your answer in question one.

There can be no question that any of us will ever want to sit beside Mr Twit on an MRT train. We shall certainly give him a wide berth and move on to the next compartment. So you see, Roald Dahl had in his mind to create a loathsome character which he wanted the readers to greatly dislike. In describing a character, we need to evoke an emotional response in the readers.

Notice how Roald Dahl began with the physical appearance and he knew, naturally, the readers will come to a conclusion about the qualities of the character. It is most legitimate to describe him as “vain (he thought he looked wise and imposing”, “hopelessly lazy (what other reason is there that a person can have that awful degree of personal neglect?”)

Thus Roald Dahl concentrated in that paragraph to build up the character of Mr Twit, supplied convincing details and organised them spatially. He started from the top of Mr Twit’s face before homing in on his beard – the dominant feature.

For character description, there is no need to be exhaustive. Rather, concentrate on some aspects of the character’s features and then supply enough vivid details to make them memorable, or if these are unsavoury, then grudgingly – unforgettable.

For character description, there is no need to be exhaustive. Rather, concentrate on some aspects of the character’s features and then supply enough vivid details to make them memorable, or if these are unsavoury, then grudgingly – unforgettable.

For characters, make them authentic, that is believable.

How about you try describing the physical appearance and qualities of a person you truly admire?