1. Ibiscribe
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    Ibiscribe New Member

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    Character identifying features?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ibiscribe, Oct 3, 2014.

    Hello,
    I've (finally) come to the realization that I have undeveloped character description skills. I've been working on doing better with that, but still run into problems sometimes. Like when I need to make a character stand out somehow.

    Say that someone is looking in a newspaper and sees the photo of a character who has a certain recognizable feature. What is that feature? A birthmark? That's already very cliche. A scar? Also cliche, and possibly too dramatic. Unusual piercings, maybe? Hair color and eye color variations can be distinctive, but risk either not being distinctive enough (eg. blond highlights), or too far into "Mary Sue" territory... color-changing rainbow eyes, anyone?

    What kinds of features can be used to make a character more recognizable, but not too outrageous? What have you found that works best? What wouldn't you suggest?
     
  2. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    Books aren't movies. Make characters distinctive in what they do rather than how they look.
     
  3. jonahmann
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    jonahmann Active Member

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    How about a facial tattoo?
     
  4. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    Hair colour can be changed, as can eye colour. The rest, in my opinion, have been done to death to the point I think I'd be rolling my eyes. If it were me, my decision would hang less on how they are discovered, e.g. spotted in a newspaper, than why they dropped out of view in the first place. You could simply dial it down a notch by using something like family resemblance, or having them wear a family heirloom, something that can be worked into the plotting in more subtle, less attention grabbing fashion, leading to a greater pay off down the line.
     
  5. Delise
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    Delise Member

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    I know what you mean about struggling with describing what characters look like.
    When making your character profile try to think about the life your character has lived.
    Who are the characters parents? What genetics do you want the character to have?

    Still what will make your character stand out in a story isn't always how they look but what they say and do.
    Some of the characters that stay in my memory forever are from books were the features of the character are subtle and realistic but described in such a way that I won't forget that specific trait.

    I can hardly remember much of what authors say about their characters save for they're young, Caucasian and have some grey in their black hair. I'm talking about Holden from Catcher in the Rye.
    I only remember what he looks like because of the impact of the words the character spoke.

    I filled in the rest with my own imagination.

    A scar might be cliche but people do have them. How he got the scar though, could be what is unique.
     
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  6. Delise
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    Delise Member

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    I have a friend whose eyes changed color as he aged. From light green to dark green.
    I know another person whose eyes constantly change color depending on the type of lighting. One day his eyes were greenish hazel the other day more bluish green. It was trippy.
    I know a girl whose hair is never the same from day to day. She has naturally curly hair and depending on the level of attention she gives it, it's either an afro one day or braids the next or curly ringlets or straight (because she ironed it). Her hair seems to be alive.


    I know a kid who is missing is pinky and ring finger on his hand. It looks like he was in an accident.
    Because he's a child no one thinks anything of it but when he's an adult people might wonder if he's in with Yakuza. They might be stand offish with him or suspicious because of it.
    It's an outdated practice but some older people might still assume such a thing if they see his hand.
     
  7. Alexa C. Morgan
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    Alexa C. Morgan Member

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    "The woman had a sour expression on her asymmetric face, worst than the puddle she held in her Vuitton purse. She'd carry the dog everywhere, it was simple, the poor creature fit in most shoulder bags because it only had three legs. They say that dogs resemble their masters. In her case, she took upon the dog's feature, her hair curly and harsh to the touch; If not for her crooked teeth I swear her tongue would loll between her thin almost unexistent lips. And both, Anabelle and Babyskins had round dark eyes portraying a suave desperation. The dog's to escape the clutch. Anabelle's to escape her rudimentary existence, where she had no friends to talk to, no lover to make coffee with, no brothers or sisters to love her despite her obvious flaws. "
    There, that's a person in the newspaper descriptive. In any case, the same thing can be written plain and simple, like, she had an asymmetric face and curly short hair and a dog. So I guess a character's description has to have a little more, something unique, if, in terms or metaphor usage, that gives a background story and a more in-depth look .
     
  8. elynne
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    elynne Active Member

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    there's another recent thread discussing describing one's main characters, and I use similar guidelines for all my characters: maybe give a couple of concrete details--hair color, thin/round face--then sketch the rest with emotions. "Soft curls framed her face, and seemed to bounce when she laughed." "His expression was severe and forbidding, as if he was carved from granite." not great examples, but that's generally what I mean. unless there's some reason for the reader to know exactly what a person looks like, it seems that the story is usually better served by giving character impressions rather than minute details of appearance.
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Murakami is a master of physical description. He does it every time a character enters the scene, so there are loads of examples to choose from. The best way to learn any writing skill is from published novels, that got it right. There's no other way, I don't think.
     

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