Thursday, December 6, 2012

Baby Evil Writers 101: Tags and Traits

Baby Evil Writers 101: Tags and Traits
Julie Butcher

Tags are word that you try to use only for one particular character. When making your character sheet (see my last Baby Evil Writers 101 post) you need descriptive terms that apply only to one person.  When that person is introduced into a scene, you use one of the tags in the description.

Here is our character sheet from the last lesson.

Gregor (Poppi) Romanoff
Age: 67
Height: 6’
Nationality: Gipsy
Accent: Russian
Married to: Maria (Baba) Romanoff for forty years
Voice sounds like a gravel road
Plays the Violin for gipsy dancers
Lives in an Airstream trailer
Phrases: Devochka as an endearment
Favorite thing: To find news under the message stone

Now we need to make descriptive tags to hang on Poppi. (Whiskers, piercing gaze, tanned, white hair, determined)

The first time Poppi is introduced in the story it reads,
 *The spotlight lit up Poppi’s white hair as he trilled the opening notes.*  Since Poppi is a supporting character, whenever he pops into a scene after an absence from the story line, he’ll have a tag. This is purely to give the reader a mental nudge to form a picture in their mind. I’ll try very hard not to use Poppi’s tags anywhere else in the story.

Next, we need to give Poppi traits. Traits are like tags except they describe either an item the character owns or keeps with them, a characteristic physical movement, or his responsibilities/job.
(Violin, hex bag, pocket watch, sword)

The next time Poppi comes into the picture it reads,
*“Stacia, when you’ve changed, fold the outside chairs and put them in the trailer. We’re meeting up with a carnival in Boise tonight.” He closed and snapped his violin case. “There’s a State Fair, and we’ll run for a month, you’ll like that.”*

Have tags and traits for each character
Use them when a character enters a scene.
Don’t use those words for another character or description if possible. (A it’s lazy and B your job as a writer is to know more than one word for white.)


  1. Was all set to ask you a question, because I didn't think I gave traits or tags for some characters- but in typing out my question I realized I did.

    They don't have to be screaming at you- a few subtle things are enough, right?

  2. This really helped me greatly. This brought some order to the chaos i call writing.


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