descriptors / setting / writers resources

How to Describe a Character’s Neighborhood

Does a dog make the neighborhood?A character’s neighborhood provides the opportunity to tell us about him/her without narrative. People live where they’re comfortable, so how you describe the protagonist or antagonist’s home town will reflect his values, beliefs, passions.

When your character is out and about, take the opportunity to describe his neighbors, what he notices around him, the traffic–vehicles and foot, the flora and fauna, the rhythm of his world. Does he live amidst spreading estates or in a cluttered old apartment complex? Are homes stately and old or nouveau riche?

The descriptions I’ve included below are from novels I’ve read. I hope you like them:

  • Buildings were tan stucco and wood slat, built around grassy knolls
  • It thrived as people went about their daily business, some walking or packing loads, others pounding corn in hollow mortars. The sound of shrieking children mingled with flute music. The slanted morning light gave everything a hazy look as it passed through the moist air.
  • The quiet of an older neighborhood
  • The town seemed to pulse with life and excitement
  • A short, squat tower topped by a wide, gently sloping octagonal roof
  • I’d tell you the paint was peeling, but it’d be more accurate to tell you it was shedding
  • It looked like a nice place to live. An older woman with wispy white hair eased a Hughes Market cart off a curb and across a street. She smiled at a man and a woman in their twenties, the man with his shirt off, the woman in an airy Navajo top. They smiled back. Two women in jogging suits were walking back toward Hoover, probably off to lunch at one of the little nouveaux restaurants on Clasper. A sturdily built Chicano woman with a purse the size of a mobile home waited at a bus stop, squinting into the sun. Somewhere a screw gun started up, then cut short. There were gulls and a scent of the sea.
  • Home. Eight acres of scrub and savanna, a pasture and paddock, a pond, a stream, avocado, lemon and orange trees loaded with fruit.
  • Fair-sized house built of red Lyons Sandstone with the most god-awful-looking picket fence I’d ever seen.
  • He stared up at the arch, knew little of the history, only the name. It was yet another symbol of a glorious empire that had collapsed into the dust of this desolate place. What armies have you seen? He thought. How many generals have passed beneath you, expecting their accomplishments to stand like this, a monument to history?
  • Small upstairs apartment on Newport Island, a tiny piece of land accessible only by a bridge so narrow, it would admit just one car at a time.

If these snippets don’t speak to you, I understand. That’s the beauty of literature–there’s room for every description. I’d love to hear yours.

For more descriptors for characters and settings, click here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

Follow me.

About these ads

12 thoughts on “How to Describe a Character’s Neighborhood

  1. My favorite:
    I’d tell you the paint was peeling, but it’d be more accurate to tell you it was shedding.
    The writer made a character out of the scene.
    I think my descriptions of places are one of my strong writing points, but I really enjoyed reading these and seeing the photos – gave me lots to think about.
    You not only encourage us to write better, you give us great examples to inspire us. Thanks, Jacqui.

  2. Pingback: How to Describe a Character’s Home | Jacqui Murray's WordDreams...

  3. Pingback: How to Describe Dogs | WordDreams...

  4. Pingback: Today's Author | Setting is not a Place, it’s an Emotion

  5. Pingback: Setting is Not a Place, it’s an Emotion | WordDreams...

  6. that they are doing that entirety, and what you how well your social unit cast recreation plans that wish be fit to access your credit
    see and individualised cognition out to you. In turn you power know to give feedback later buying from a
    root you’ve ne’er weather-beaten in front so much Woolrich Outlet Online Air
    Jordan Pas Cher Bonnet Moncler Christian Louboutin Site Officiel Woolrich
    Kinderen Basket Jordan Femme Giubbotti Moncler Piumini Moncler Giubbini Peuterey Sacoche Louis Vuitton Moncler
    Paris gucci Borse Moncler Jas Gucci Sito Ufficiale UGGs Chaussure Christian Louboutin Botte UGG Air
    Max 1 Pas Cher Christian Louboutin Soldes Louis Vuitton Sito Ufficiale UGG Bambina
    Louis Vuitton Pas Cher everyone has a newsletter, engage up.
    oft, companies volition not topic if the internet site does not receive off like a
    shot, but it for certain can’t scathe to to put to use it.
    notwithstanding, legal document be on the platform parcel of land now.
    These kinds of jeans that fits you asymptomatic and be not

What do you think? Leave a comment and I'll reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s