1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    characters description

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tesoro, Feb 5, 2011.

    I was reading another thread and a question came to my mind:
    Is it important to you as writers that the readers gets an exact picture of your main character (that they see them the exact same way as you did when you created them) by the descriptions of him/her or do you think that they might picture them different (age, height, haircolor etc) than you when it comes to looks as long as they understand their basic characteristics, who they are more than what they look like?
    in short; do you want the readers to use their imagination about your characters physical aspects or do you need people to see them like you do? is it important or even crucial to the story?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both - in my case I usually make it crucial to the story in a variety of ways. For example it was partly his size, hair colour, that made my MC in my first book stand out from his family. In my current book Socrates love handles are a cause for concern because he is out of shape. I do like to have general pointers and then let my readers fill in the gaps.

    I also have a variety of races in my stories that need description would be kind of odd to describe them and not the MC. I obviously leave enough gaps that the pictures I have in mind for my characters are not usually what my readers come up with, with the exception of Socrates and I tend to describe him less.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    No, it isn't important to me as a writer and I don't like it as a reader. The reader is generally going to develop their own image of your characters in their head. If you give two or three primary details, those will probably stick. The rest are more than likely going to be lost to the reader's own creation, and continuing to provide exhaustive details just jars the readers because it conflicts with the image the reader already has in her mind and which isn't going to be easy to change.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's the way to do it, imo. A few crucial pieces of information. Trying to provide the level of detail necessary for the reader to envision the character precisely as you do is a mistake, in my view, and won't work in any event :)
     
  5. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    To describe someone in the amount of detail needed to get an accurate picture of them would take over a page, be extremely boring, and not worth it, even as a character study to the writer. I just stick with basic information, and anything that's plot important. Hopefully I don't work with such an obvious template it's easy to guess that a certain detail is important because I mentioned it when normally I don't, but I do have an idea of the characters quite clear in my own head, so I go for the most distinguishing features, whether they're important or not, since they're the ones that convey the most personality.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find somehow my main character Socrates comes across to most people how I envisage him (even before I started putting his picture on my profile lol) However people generally find Angus sexy, whereas I envisage him as a bit ugly lol

    I agree the light touch is great I love Jane Eyre and Little Women etc they have it about right. It isn't always eye and hair colour but like Jane is plain etc

    However as a reader would rather have dump than none. Robert Neil is my favourite and who I attempt to emulate with mine his descriptions are vital to the story and placing the characters in their time and place. For me clothing descriptions are more important that physical characteristics. I just love the way he uses the images to build the story.
     
  7. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    thank you for replying, it was interesting to hear. I do about the same, i dont give every detail about height etc but i put in more little details about maybe accent or way of speaking or walking etc during the story, but i also think like steerpike that describing them too much would probably confuse the reader since they will start imagining the characters in a certain way and i dont want to conflict with that. it doesnt matter to me if they see my characters with wavy or straight hair for example.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do include height because often it is relevant to my story and something remarkable to note - for example my MC in my first story is six foot ten, it is part of his nickname the Royal Oaf.

    My 'elf' type race are over six foot generally, my ogres over seven foot. Whereas my wind elemental race are normal height.
     
  9. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do like to give my readers a good idea of what my MCs look like, but I think that's because I like that when I'm reading a book. When I don't know what the characters look like, I sometimes feel I can't connect with them (had that problem with The Wizard of Earthsea). Of course I try not to get so into detail that it gets boring, but there must be something that sets them apart from each other.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if it's important/crucial to the story, then of course you need to let the readers 'see' the character as s/he needs to be seen...

    if it's not, then you can be as general or as vague as you want to be about how your characters look... i can't say i ever got such a clear enough picture of sam spade, marlowe, danton, ben gunn, or miss marple and poirot, or any other major characters from my favorite novels while reading about them, that any of their movie counterparts matched what i'd had in mind... so i think it proves that as long as the story is good and the writing its equal, you don't have to be too specific...
     
  11. Contagion
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    I think that in literature, it's practically impossible to convey to the reader the exact image of your characters, but I do think it's important for the reader to create a mental image of the character based on the writers descriptions and/or implications.

    As others have already stated, the importance of accurate character visualisations depend entirely on the context of the story
     
  12. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think some details are important to mention - for example, if the characters race will be mentioned later in the story, it's a good idea to mention their hair and skin colour early on, so the reader doesn't picture your hispanic character with red hair and freckles. The character's height, weight and level of physical fitness may also become important later in the story, so it's a good idea to give the reader the right image from the start.

    I also mention a few individual details which feel important to me, which feel like they are part of their character. But apart from that, I let the reader imagine them as they will.
     
  13. Douglas Rumbaugh
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    Douglas Rumbaugh Member

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    When I write I tend to leave a lot of my main character's appearance to imagination, only revealing small details here and there over the course of the story. Other characters are a different story though, those I always describe, though again I tend to spread it out over time rather than have a massive dump of details right away (I still go over the important stuff during their introduction though).
     
  14. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    You know you have written a compelling story when after reading a story readers have their own version of the image of your character. In other words the writer did not impose an image but just helped develop an image in the readers' minds. I feel that head-to-toe description is imposing an image, whereas some physical descriptions here and there but mainly focusing on the emotions and yearnings of a character is the way to go. A char is like a real person, the readers will like or dislike them and feel for them only when they get to know what they are really made of inside, looks matter very little then. Having said that, there are always exceptions depending on the story. Anyway, this is what I feel and I may be wrong entirely.
     
  15. danielperson75
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    danielperson75 Member

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    In my work, I make a general outline of the individual, because one persons' version of short, long, tall, short, etc. anything that can be subject, can vary greatly, when you tell about your carachter who may have brown hair, no matter how deeply you describe the brown in their hair, brown to one person is going to be different to the other, so a lot gets lost in interpretation, I say describe them just enough to separate them or make them stand apart, but not at the risk of subjecting your pace and flow, I always pepper parts in later that I've left out about their general description in the beginning I may say someone is six feet tall, lanky and had shimmering brown hair, but later on in the story may say that his blue eyes twinkled in the moonlight while his beautifully large, pursed lips may add to a picture I've already placed in the mind of the reader. Hope this helps!
     
  16. Terri
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    Terri Senior Member

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    As a reader I want to be able to use my imagination. I don't want everything spelled out in black & white. If it is, I'm not as engaged & I'll probably put the book down.

    Thus, when I write I keep that in mind. I want the reader to stay engaged. I want them to continue turning pages. In order to do that I feel I ought to leave some things (not relevant to the story itself) up to their imagination.
     
  17. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think those things are important too, but maybe those are of those things that can be revealed through action or dialogue rather than explicit description, like in dialogue a phrase or expression in another language, or if one character is chubby you could reveal it throught their eating habits etc. I know im onto nothing new here, its just that i came to realize it while reading your reply! Thanks for that! :)


    I believe in doing that too, i spread them out over time, because that is what i like when i read, getting to know the character throughout the story.




    You are both right, the challenge is making the reader see the character as a real person rather than having a ready made impression that maybe they cant imagine for themselves.
     

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