Setting and character description are linked. A man who favours a torn leather armchair filled with cushions is quite different from a man who rathers sleek minimalist designer furniture. The setting should complement and reflect the character.
It is often effective to draw around the character, sketch them in their absence. What type of chair do they favour? Wallpaper? House? What book is left on their bedside table? Is their office desk obsessively orderly or natty and neat?
I have a background in fine art painting and I find painting is a great way to understand this aspect of character description – the concept of describing your characters by drawing around them rather than delivering a direct portrait of the same. I like to compare these two portraits by Vincent Van Gogh: one a self portrait and the other Van Gogh’s portrait of Paul Gauguin.
What do you think Vincent is communicating regarding his own and Gauguin’s character and personality?
(Bear in mind that Van Gogh and Gauguin were close once but their relationship became strained when they house-shared at Arles – when these portraits were painted.)
And how would you paint these two portraits in words?