Christmas in July

Okay, this title has nothing to do with this article, but I couldn’t resist using it, even though it’s August. Every time I hear this expression I’m reminded of my Christmases in South Africa, where the seasons were topsy-turvy and a ‘white Christmas’ was some ridiculous idealistic illusion we compensated for by ‘dressing’ the branches of the Christmas trees with cotton wool.

We are a long time away from getting into the Christmas spirit, but I came across this cute image and immediately thought it would make a wonderful backdrop for a Misty Dreams prequel – should I decide to take the leap. After all, Clare and Richard’s story began on Christmas Eve, even if it didn’t turn out as joyful as one would expect. This is exactly how I envision Mary Mallory’s (at the time Mary Butler) house in the East Village all decked out for the Holidays, a non-pretentious, well-kept townhouse in the nicer part of Lower Manhattan. In Misty Dreams, Maxwell Mallory and Mary Butler tie the knot, presumably so they can gain custody of Misty, but in truth, as Misty cunningly figures out, they’ve secretly always had a thing for each other.

Often I find myself scouring websites for images that will inspire me. I rely a lot on pictures when it comes to describing places, buildings and surroundings in my writing, as well as a good amount of research. Not so much when it comes to defining my characters’ physical attributes. Characters are much more than their physical appearance, so I try not to be too specific, aside from the obvious, like the color of their hair and eyes and how tall they are, preferring to let readers conceive their own mental images. Besides, everyone has their own idea of what a character should look like. Take me, for instance. Every time I read a book where the male character has a beard or a mustache, I’m tempted to set it aside. I don’t like beards or mustaches, period. Am I unique in that?  In my mind’s eye, my characters are vague silhouettes. What defines who they are and what they look like are their mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, as well as the emotions they stir in me.

After all that rambling I would love for my readers to tell me whether they’d rather have a ready-made physical description of the character they’re reading about or if they prefer to make up their own. I invite you to take the challenge and leave a comment. Happy rest of the summer!

2 thoughts on “Christmas in July

  1. Elizabeth McD

    I like to have some physical attributes given but do enjoy filling in details with my own imagination. I don’t much care for beards and mustaches either, but I do think there are some characters who do need them to be just right (Pa Ingalls! Aragorn!). As a challenge to myself I’m trying to write a story with no outright physical description whatsoever of the characters except for gender. It’s…interesting. Lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. josephinestrand Post author

      You’re absolutely right. Sometimes a beard is required 😉 I tend to be more specific about my secondary characters’ appearances rather than than main characters’. I’d be curious to know how your effort turns out for you..



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