When describing characters, it’s common to describe a character’s appearance such as their face, hair color, or clothes. However, this only creates a superficial image of a character. To dig deeper, read “Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You” by Sam Gosling.
The basic idea behind “Snoop” is that you can determine a person’s personality by studying what they own and how they express themselves. For example, many people decorate their desks with items that provide comfort such as framed pictures of loved ones, stuffed animals, or posters. A person’s possessions are a way they can control their environment.
Nobody will decorate their desk with items they can’t stand. Instead, people reveal their personality by what they enjoy. Thus a desk decorated with Hello, Kitty memorabilia will belong to a completely different person than someone who decorates their desk with pictures from horror movies.
You can even look at someone’s music collection (playlist or CD collection) to determine what type of music they listen to that helps moderate their behavior. Someone who listens to heavy metal will be a different person than someone who enjoys classical music.
So when describing characters, go beyond the stereotypes of appearances and dig deeper into what a person might own and take with them to control their environment. Someone who drives a sports car will be different than someone who drives a beat-up clunker.
Then shatter expectations to create unique juxtapositions. For example, someone who drives a clunker might seem like a poor person who enjoys working on cars, but what if a character drives a clunker, yet dresses in fine European suits and polished shoes? This contradiction between their clothes and their car defines a distinct character, and that’s the kind of visual image your screenplay needs to describe.
Pick a well-dressed women with tasteful clothes and makeup, yet imagine her bedroom filled with teddy bears and valentines. This contrast hints that such a woman puts on a serious face at work to others while revealing her true playfulness at home in the privacy of her own bedroom.
These types of details is what the book “Snoop” can help you learn about. By observing people, you can turn the tiniest detail into something memorable. If a man still wears his fraternity ring, what does that say about him compared to another man who sports tattoos and body piercings all over his face?
The point is that you want to pick out specific details that intrigue a reader and paint a distinct and memorable character. Look for unique details and then contradict them. That can help make any character more memorable and interesting.
Consider reading “Snoop” to learn more about how our possessions reveal our personality. Once you understand how your own possessions define you, you can get a better idea how possessions define other people as well.
Now by subtly describing the stuff your characters own that stand out, you can paint a far more descriptive image than just focusing on looks alone.