1. Nikhil
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    Nikhil Contributing Member

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    Character Appearance Description Issue

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Nikhil, Nov 8, 2008.

    Well, I write good but a very difficult problem for me is to describe the appearance of character. I don't know what all kind of dresses and hair styles are called.

    Please help me in improving.

    I would like to know how you would describe my Avater and you could also give examples on Anime characters like Vegeta(I don't know how to describe his hair style:(), Goku etc.
     
  2. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    Do note that character description does not necessarily create characterisation. Thus you can get away with not naming hair styles and showing what everybody is wearing and still have a perfectly good story.
     
  3. CommonGoods
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    CommonGoods Senior Member

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    Read a lot. I suggested books that have a lot of characters (Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings). Generally, the more you read, the better you get at these sort of things.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My suggestion is - don't.

    Description always takes place from a point of view (POV), and at a moment in time. The description must be appropriate for the POV and the occasion.

    If the POV is that of the main character himself, is he in a situation where he is thinking about the details of his appearance as seen by someone else? Almost certainly not! Do you often find yourself thinking:
    I'm wearing a green plaid short-sleeved button-down shirt and navy blue relaxed fit jeans. My curly brown hair needs a trim, and my green eyes are looking tired today...
    Keep the description down to what you need for the story. You really don't need to paint a detailed picture. Make the reader use his or her imagination!
     
  5. CommonGoods
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    CommonGoods Senior Member

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    Perhaps an example of how you can describe the MC's appearence;

    Note that although this is some terrible writing (yeah it is) something like this could be used to describe your MC; describe actions and thoughts rather clothing and looks.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Can you really see yourself saying that?
     
  7. Jade
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    Jade Active Member

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    Already, within seconds of waking up and without having to look I could tell that my hair was going to be insufferable. Strands stuck to the side of my face, as straggly and unruly as a stack of hay.

    More bad writing there :p

    Anyway, yeah, especially in first person it's hard to describe what the character looks like without the help of a mirror. Luckily, like the others have said, we don't really need much idea of appearance.
     
  8. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    Unless it's important (and how often is it?), skip over it. It's unnecessary.
     
  9. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    If you like anime so much, why not draw/write comics? Or find some artsy chump to draw for you (harder). I can't see anime translating well into novel-form...
     
  10. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that you shouldn't go out of your way to explain what isn't necessary for the story, but a quick description can be nice when handled properly. I write in first person POV and have the same issue. Explaining the character's appearance can be tricky. Here's three ways that work for me; some better than others:

    1: the self-conscious moment:
    Usually happens when the character meets someone he/she respects or wants to earn the respect of and immediately becomes aware of his/her appearance. (Therefore, the reader is made aware as well.) For example, your boss walks into your office and you suddenly become concerned about how straight your tie is and begin to worry about your hair, shirt, and eveything else.

    2: the mirror:
    The name speaks for itself. It doesn't always involve a physical mirror, but it always involves the character looking at his/herself and sometimes involves getting dressed. Usually ends up looking like a laundry list -- a clothing info-dump as I like to call it. I think this is the reason why so many stories seem to begin with the MC waking up and getting dressed. Please, try to avoid this one; it's beyond obvious.

    3: it doesn't matter how I look:
    The most natural way is to simply allow the story to progress and let the chips fall where they may. Most people look the way they act, so simply let your character do his/her own thing and the reader will form a mental picture of what they look like. A hint every now and then doesn't hurt though. Your char may pause to whipe his glasses; she may straighten the folds of her dress; he might tie his running shoes; she might adjust the ribbon in her hair. Just make sure it's natural and doesn't seem tacked on.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    My boyfriend says I look like Jessica Alba with blond hair. I notice a lot of authors handle description this way.

    One of my favorites, and it seems so natural, is from one of my favorite novels, Fear Nothing.

    Sasha says that I remind her of James Dean, more as he was in East of
    Eden than in Rebel Without a Cause.

    I myself don't perceive the resemblance. The hair is the same, yes,
    and the pale blue eyes. But he looked so wounded, and I do not see
    myself that way.

    I am not James Dean. I am no one but me, Christopher Snow, and I can
    live with that.

    I think if a MC has wild hair like Goku, it needs to be described. Think of what it reminds you of. His hair sort of reminds me of an upside down artichoke. So why not describe it like that? His hair resembled a black upside down artichoke. Perhaps it reminds of you black shards or icicles shooting up. Try to think of a few words that will paint the picture and go with it.

    He brushed his hands through his hair and sighed. Kim thought his hair looked silly, like a black upside down artichoke. A big two foot artichoke.

    He brushed his hands through his hair and sighed. His hair reminded Kim of the crystal fortress in Superman, but black. Black crystals overlapping each other coming to a fine point.

    He brushed his hands through his dark, tall, spiky hair.

    Or you could add a little more to the last one. Tall is an understatement. His hair made him look a foot and a half taller.
     
  12. Shockeye
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    Shockeye New Member

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    Character Descriptions

    Usually when I'm writing a story, one thing I tend to not do at all is describe what my characters look like.

    I'm worried that this might put some people off. But I think it sometimes breaks the flow of the story to suddenly stop and describe the MCs pointy nose.

    Should I devote a sentence or two to telling what the characters look like?
     
  13. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    It depends. Are you writing in 1st- or 3rd-person? Is the character you're describing the narrated/main character or another character? Are looks important? Will it break the flow? Does it add to the characterisation?

    The problem with questions like this is that there is no right answer, obviously. Your writing could be perfectly good either way, and the only thing that will determine what is the right choice is answering those questions and the hundreds of others that could be askes. No one is going to ask you those questions, so you need to do it yourself. Other people will only say "In my case..." or "I think you should/shouldn't". Write it, read it, then decide, don't think you need to do it just because other people do it that way.
     
  14. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to describe my characters with their actions. I may use something like

    'His face hardend as his hand clutched his black hair.'

    Now you know the character has black hair, and is probably not in the mood to be messed with.

    'He flinched as he saw the mustard stains on Luke's shirt.'

    now you know He is a neat freak and Luke is a slob. Has a nice dual purpose by describing bits about the character and giving them some characterization.
     
  15. chrisrozwod
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    chrisrozwod Member

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    I don't like these examples. I think you should stay away from this. I almost always find it frustrating. It's too obvious that that's what you're doing. His hand clutched the hair--the color is irrelevant, and stands out, in a negative way, if pointed out. The mustard stains also seem to have little to do with the flinching, unless he's flinching at the sight of them, in which case it's not as bad. If it's the latter, we should hear the clean character's thoughts afterward. That way it's not really about the mustard stains. Then again, it makes the mustard stains relevant because that detail helps you develop the character. Without his thoughts, I don't think it does it though. I hope that makes sense, it felt like a bunch of rambling.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The problem with the first example is that you are stepping out of character with your POV. Nobody, whether he be a clone of the character or a nearby observer, is going to think "jet black hair" in the context of seeing the gesture. It;s just not a believable train of thought.

    Your narrator should be thought of as a character as much as any explicit character. He or she will think or say certain things, but would never, ever say other things. You need to be consistent with your narrative voice the entire time you are seated in that POV. Thinking this way may also make your writing better when you need to switch POVs.

    The problem with the second is observing the observation, rather than the action.

    We don't need to say he saw it; we know that because he's reacting to it. The judgmental attitude shows in the idea he has to overlook (forgive) Luke for it, and the fact that he sees it as untidy.
     
  17. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I stand corrected :)
     
  18. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    One of my favorite stories, where characterisation is concerned, is American Gods. The main character, Shadow, never gets any real description. At all. No-one comments on what he looks like. But you get a good sense of who he is, and thus his appearance, by what he does. He's big, and he's fit- real fit- and you know that because he's a good fighter and physically strong, and his girlfriend is quite small in comparison to him. Apart from that, you are invited to fill him in with whatever appearance you want. What he looks like just never really enters his thoughts. I always gave him bulky musculature and long black hair. He could probably be bald for all I remember. The point is, it didn't matter.

    Give appearance where it is really needed; if we don't need to know that she has cold blue eyes- if the cold blue eyes don't show up later, if no-one comments on them, if cold blue eyes aren't the effect of magical power or the physical symptom of some strange disease or the sign of being part of some odd family line- it's probably okay to let some readers picture her with brown eyes.
     
  19. mermaidlover
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    mermaidlover New Member

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    Character description help

    I think it is good to have what the character looks like but not a huge discription. How the main character was good or evil?
     
  20. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I usually give a basic description of the character when he or she is first introduced - hair, eyes, complexion, build, age, and so on - and then I try to avoid ever describing them again unless I have to.

    As I see it, first impressions are the only impressions that really matter.

    Anyway, the important part is that the readers have a general idea of what my character looks like. After that I don't mind if they fill in the blanks themselves.
     
  21. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Meh....

    Describing hairstyles and dresses by name is leaning towards Mar Sue-ism (if you said, "Email me for the pics," quit NOW). I tend not to use the "mirror method" either because it's a bit of a cliche.

    Try not to go too much into detail with it. Probably just include hair color, eye color, and distinctive features like facial shape or birthmarks.

    How? Just add the little things in during scenes when they would make sense. Is your character brushing her hair? I think hair color would be good here. Is she speaking to her mother? Maybe now it would be a good time to mention how they share identical faces, but she has her father's eyes.
     
  22. jeremiah22
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    jeremiah22 New Member

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    i think it is necessary to describe prominent features, but restrain on describing unnecessary features
     

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