Easy. Give them human characteristics, which is what most, if not all, writers do when describing non-human characters.
I suspect it’s the ONLY way to describe a character because, as humans, we don’t know how to describe anything other than ourselves and, fortunately for writers, that includes a huge range of characters from the most lofty, nicest characters imaginable to the worst scum of the universe.
‘Pantsers’ write by the seat of their pants. They just sit down and start writing. They normally end up doing a whole lot of revision and rewriting and, occasionally, even changing the thrust of the story, but they say this method allows their mind free rein and results in a better product.
‘Plotters’ outline their novel and describe their characters and often describe and research the setting before beginning. They are comfortable doing this because they know who the story is about, where it’s going, how it’s going to get there, and why they are writing it in the first place. They usually spend less time changing and rewriting but that’s balanced by the extra time they put in before beginning.
So it just depends on which kind of writer you are.
I started out being a ‘pantser’ and ended up being a ‘plotter’ when I realized I was writing pages and pages of beautifully worded fluff that said nothing and went nowhere.
Everyone knows that the standard of greatness against which all great things are measured is sliced bread.
What you probably didn’t know (unless you live in Northwest Missouri) is that Missouri is the home of sliced bread. I’m not making this up! Of course, people have been cutting bread into slices forever, but the first time you could buy a loaf of bread that was already sliced was 90 years ago, in a small town called Chillicothe, just thirty minutes down the road from Hamilton. That’s where Otto Frederick Rohwedder invented the first commercial bread slicing machine.
I really am grateful to Otto’s bread-slicing machine for making our lives a little easier. It allows for doing all sorts of other things besides slicing bread. Like writing clean, small-town, chick-lit romances, which is a fun thing to do and are fun books to read. No ‘big problems’ that will ruin lives unless they are solved. No horrid, dark monsters waiting in the wings to wreck everything unless they are defeated. Just nice people falling in love in wonderful, beautiful places and living happily ever after.
I’m showing this cover for a couple reason. The first is that I like it. Thanks NASA, I love looking through pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope and as soon as I saw it I knew this was right for my first on-line short story The Eye of The Universe. (In case anyone wants to read it, it’s available free from Smashwords. Amazon charges .99 because they don’t do free unless a reader finds something free somewhere else and tells Amazon about it. Then they’ll change it to match the lowest price elsewhere. Hasn’t happened yet.)
The second reason is that there are no people in the picture, even though it’s a romance. Which is okay because it seems that some people are getting tired of naked and half-naked people on romance novel covers. When I chose this cover, I didn’t know that. I just knew I wanted this cover so I added a blurb to tell potential readers that it’s a romance because they couldn’t tell from the picture.
I thought I was going against the tide by choosing a cover without an obviously in-love couple on it. But I’ve since discovered that, as happens with every trend including romance novels, there is a small mini-trend bucking the huge, mega-trends in romances. That trend is called ‘clean romances’ and it’s what I write. Sort of.
‘Sort of’ because as of yet there’s no precise definition of a clean romance beyond that there are no sexually explicit sex scenes. Some purists feel that there shouldn’t be any profanity either, or any pre-marital sex at all. None. My work doesn’t qualify on those counts, I do include premarital sex and profanity where it fits, but I don’t follow my characters into the bedroom and give a blow-by-blow description of what happens next. No particular reason why not. I like sex and have no problem with writers who do erotic stories. But I find it hard to write while rolling on the floor laughing and that’s what happens when I try to describe the sex act. Too many body parts. Too many positions. Too much work. Guess I’m lazy.
This new trend has been in existence long enough that there are groups on Goodreads (where I first ran across the term) and elsewhere and there are a growing number of reviewers who specifically mention that they will review clean romances. And there’s an e-publisher dedicated to publishing just clean romances. Astraea Publishing is very clear about what they will and won’t accept.
Which is good news to writers because not every romance writer wants to include specific sex in their stories. And maybe I’ll be able to use more covers from NASA. I really, really love those pictures.