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How to Describe Your Hero (the Susan Elizabeth Phillips Way)

By on Friday, Mar 4, 2011 in Craft | 0 comments

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I’ve been doing a lot of judging lately–for the GH, for my local chapter contest.  And a lot of editing on my own manuscript. 

Here’s what I’m noticing:  a lot of writers, myself included, prefer dark haired heros with dark eyes.

After a while, how sick can you get of describing ebony, black as night, jet black, dark, brown, mysterious, black as midnight, exotic–you know what I mean.   Seems like you just drain yourself (and thesaurus.com) of words to describe your hero’s dazzling, ever-changing hair and eyes as you’re writing him through the 300+ pages of your manuscript.  

But then I read this.  This passage is taken from page 7 of Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  What follows is the very first description of the hero, Heath Champion, also known as The Python, through the eyes of the heroine Annabelle Granger, who is just taking over her grandmother’s matchmaking business.  He does sports PR at the highest level–the same job as Jerry MacGuire.  She first sees him sitting behind the desk in his very high-end office:

(I had to take a deep breath and stop reading after this paragraph.  It just bowled me over!)

“He was square-jawed and tough, everything about him proclaiming a brash, self-made man–a roughneck who’d flunked charm school the first couple of times around but had finally gotten it right on the third pass.  His hair was thick and crisp, its rich color a cross between a leather portfolio and a bottle of Bud.  He had a straight, confident nose and bold dark eyebrows, one of which was bisected near the end with a thin pale scar.  The firm set of his well-molded mouth proclaimed the low tolerance for fools, a passion for hard work that bordered on obsession, and possibly–although this might be her imagination–a determination to own a small chalet near St. Tropex before he was fifty.  If it weren’t for a vague irregularity to his features, he would have been unbearably gorgeous.  Instead, he was merely drop-dead good-looking.  What did a man like this need with a matchmaker?”

Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Match Me If You Can

Writing like this is why SEP is a goddess!

What makes this different–what makes it stand-out writing?
(I’m going to come back later and tell you why I love this so much.)