dressing and describing a character

Sometimes the character descriptions are my favorite parts of novels.  They often seem more vibrant to me than other parts of the same book.  Is this because the author puts in extra effort when describing a character?  To me they just seem great fun to write.

Here are a couple recent ones that I enjoyed.  They amused me.  Both are from The Dancing Druids by Gladys Mitchell.  It’s my current bathroom-reading mystery novel, obtained from the free discards rack at the library.

“Laura was as bold as a lion, but was as superstitious as a warlock.  She was full of dark fancies drowned in primordial deeps.  She also believed, with healthy, female instinct, that dangerous and delicate missions were less unpleasant in the daylight than in the dark.  With respect to the house itself, she was torn between a frantic desire to visit it and an equally strong determination not to go anywhere near its boundaries.  She was, in fact, like a child who both dreads and longs for a ghost-story just at bedtime.  The thrill would be worth it, the aftermath definitely not.  In other words, although Laura was both practical and hard-headed, and although she was brisk, jimp, and daring in all that she undertook, she was also the prey of an inherited belief in the legends, spectres and bogies of a Highland ancestry.  It was one of the many reasons for her adherence to Mrs. Bradley, who was legend, spectre, and bogie all in one, for she felt, without realizing it, that the greater demon kept the lesser demons at bay.”

I had to look up “jimp.”  It’s apparently a Scottish term that means slender or scant or neat or elegant.  Perhaps also archaic usage, since the novel was published in 1948.

And then there’s this description a little later in the book of Mrs. Bradley herself:

“Mrs. Bradley cordially agreed.  She herself looked very far from appetizing in a sage-green costume and a bright red blouse, an heirloom brooch of vast proportions whose only virtue was that it did at least conceal some of the blouse, stout shoes with crepe rubber soles, knitted stockings, and a rakish diamond clip on the side of her shining black hair.”

Doesn’t that seem a bit of fun to have written?  If I ever write a novel myself….


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