Character description

character_profile_girlAs I go through my novel chapters during this revision I’m continually checking back to the character descriptions I wrote up prior and during my writing process. One of the main considerations is keeping the characters’ descriptions and actions and attitudes consistent throughout or revealing how they have changed as time goes by.

One of my four main characters is described below (though a bit haphazardly). I’ve been told she is the most interesting. Please let me know what you think.

Ruth Schuman, wife of Ira, mother of Charles and Ava

  • Physical appearance: heavy-set, huge breasts, smooth white pale skin, short about 5 feet, Always wears an old tight-fitting black dress usually with a dirty apron over it until she transforms. Wears a wig at first, then her hair pinned in a bun until she gets it cut in a modern 1920s style
  • Dark brown eyes
  • At first all for going to America until the death of her three sons changes her so that she doesn’t want to leave Sokolow and the burial ground. Who would take care of the grave if she leaves? But she goes so Charles, her surviving son, will have a better education and chance at a better life. She stays the same for a long time bitter, stubborn, reluctant to do anything to get Americanized. Then things change. She adopts a couple of graves where young children are buried and takes care of them. The biggest change comes when she discovers Ira is having an affair. She loses weight, gets her hair cut, and begins to change her clothes from the ubiquitous black to bright print dresses.
  • She is prejudice against anything American, not interested in creating a synagogue with Ira, wants to keep Ava beholden to her and un-Americanized as well. She definitely doesn’t like the idea that Ava wants to be with a non-Jew. However, she attends their wedding hiding in a corner, showing how far she’s come.
  • Major defining event is the death of her three sons. Also, that she worked in Berlin before she married Ira. Her marriage to Ira was arranged but she learned to love him until bitterness set in after the boys’ deaths.
  • She speaks mostly Yiddish sprinkled throughout the book. At first she won’t learn to speak or read English. But that comes after her transformation as well.
  • Other characters wish they could help her come out of it grief. But I know how hard it is just losing one son, let alone that she lost three.
  • How she acts in response to specific situations: the first time with Ira after he returns to Sokolow is telling, also the scene with the shoemaker who wants to take Charles as an apprentice. She can be bitchy and strong and that behavior goes back and forth. Also she’s aggressive and finally in the end becomes tender. She knows the only way to keep her daughter in her life is to go along with her.
  • How she acts habitually: She spends a lot of time just sitting, looking down at her hands, crossing and uncrossing her feet at the ankles. But when she does speak up she berates Ira, Ava. The only one she is very loving to is her surviving son Charles
  • What are her thoughts, needs, and desires: “oh, woe is me. I’m suffering. You don’t understand me, what did I do to deserve this?”
  • She still likes foods she cooked in the old world: soup, brisket, roast chicken, strudel, home-made Challah. Will take a drink of sweet wine on Shabbos or a bit of Schnapps that Ira makes
  • Physical issue: heavy weight, growing old before her time, diabetic
  • Fears: always worried about her children, doesn’t want to let Ava out of her sight because of this.
  • What it’s like being inside her body: uncomfortable. She’s gotten so heavy. She’s standoffish because of it, she’s embarrassed by how she looks.
  • Never helped her husband at his job though worked as a housekeeper in Berlin before she met him
  • Doesn’t express her opinions very often but when she does, watch out
  • Very set in her ways not into women getting any rights or education. She wants her daughter at her side, at home, not in school.
  • Some signs of grief to use are:
  • red-rimmed eyes
  • breaking voice
  • hugging arms around her chest
  • picking at food spots on her clothing
  • pulling at her ear lobes. She doesn’t wear jewelry to touch
  • slack expression
  • quiet
  • lost and lifeless
  • staring at her hands

Papa' shoes (1)


  1. […] look at another character from my novel. Ava, Ruth Schulman’s daughter, whom you met in a post in January, evolves into the book’s main character. (Please forgive the randomness of this […]

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