1. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    Describing the MC during a POV chapter.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by michaelj, Jun 22, 2013.

    How does one do this? I noticed in GRRM's ASOIAF story, the MC doesn't get described in a POV chapter. Is there a rule for this? Or must the character be described by another person during a different POV chapter or through reflections etc?
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If I understand correctly, you are asking how one might provide a description of the MC in a chapter written from the MC's POV. I would think that it would be awkward in first person, unless you were describing something that the MC would be thinking about: "I looked in the mirror; my left eye was swollen shut. No wonder I couldn't see." Or, "It was with trepidation that I mounted the scale. I forced myself to look down. Still 280! No matter what I did, the weight would not come off."

    I would think it would be easier in third person limited.

    But I wouldn't consider it a "rule" so much as what makes for more a more readable story.
     
  3. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    No, POV from a third person perspective. In A Game of Thrones for example by GRRM, he doesn't describe the MC in each POV he writes throughout the books. You find out how they look through other characters etc.

    Is this the unofficial rule and would it be considered omniscient to describe a character otherwise?
     
  4. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Third limited is very similar to first person writing. It will still be awkward if the POV character describes himself. But its not a rule as mentioned above.
     
  5. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    You need to show and not tell. If the MC is tall, have them walk through a door and knock their head. You could have it described during dialogue, too, such as, "Wow, Diana, I wish I had blonde hair like you. I love the way it shimmers."

    Be creative. :)
     
  6. tracksterlis14
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    tracksterlis14 New Member

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    One way of going about it is describing things as seen in a mirror.

    "I almost didn't recognize the person staring back at me. I couldn't believe how long my unruly blonde hair had gotten."

    Maybe the MC has similar features to a parent or sibling they might be able to describe?

    "I glanced into the mirror as I was brushing my teeth and was stunned to see how alike my sister and I were." (Perhaps we already know what the sister looks like through a previous description by the MC, so the reader gets a better idea of what the MC looks like with that in mind.)
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Tall people have to duck under doorways, mean people kick puppies ;), angry people slam doors, beautiful people turn heads, (from someone else: ) someone having marriage trouble fiddles with their ring, ...

    There are indirect ways to describe characters.
     
  8. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Can I actually suggest to the OP to avoid using this technique. It just falls into the realm of cliché, even if done especially well. So for a beginning writer, I wouldn't recommend it.
     
  9. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    One of my POV characters finds a sword and looks into his reflection. It's been around seven months since he's seen his reflection. I know it may be "cliché" but I didn't do it so the reader would know what he looked like. To me, it just seems like something a person would naturally do. I suppose I could remove this segment but IMHO, rather than "showing" bits and bobs throughout the story to imply what the character may look like (even though I have done this), it'd be more beneficial towards the reader. I can imagine the frustration of imagining a character only to find out what he truly looks like a few chapters beyond.

    Another one of my POV characters gets viewed by another POV character.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it's that character's point of view, it probably makes no sense at all to slip in a description, unless he or she is insufferably vain. Don't do it. It's really not that important to crowbar in a description.
     
  11. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    You can describe them indirectly by how others behave around them or how they interact with their environment. I don't think using a mirror is the best idea. I also don't feel it's relevant to give a super clear description of a character. I drop bits and pieces as I write from other characters' povs. Dumping a character's entire appearance all at once on a reader comes across as forced, imo.
     
  12. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    I prefer stories that let me paint my own pictures of the characters involved, with only scant, and important details. Just a preference though.
     
  13. Erasmus B. Dragon
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    Erasmus B. Dragon Member

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    In one of my favorite series, I know that the MC is tall, has dark hair and a scarred up left hand, but 11 books in and I still have no idea what color his eyes are. It's just not important to the story.
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I have to agree with this. There is an urge in some writers/writing to describe the characters overmuch. What they are wearing, their hairstyle, their shoes, their this, their that... If it's not part of what's happening then it's just a flavor of info-dumping.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't write what your POV character CAN perceive. Write what he or she would actually notice.
     
  16. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Oh, I like that. Very good point.
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I second the idea of letting the reader use her own imagination to supply most of the physical traits of the character. Provide one or two important ones and leave it alone. I believe readers will form a mental image of your character almost immediately. If you give them a couple of strong traits right of the bat, chances are those will stick in the reader's mind. As you sprinkle additional traits into the narrative later, they will at best be ignored by the reader, or at worst will be a bit jarring because they conflict with what the reader already has in mind. I don't really care to have the characters I'm reading about described in great detail as a rule. If I'm reading something that I'm expecting to find written in a very descriptive style of writing, and if the writer is good enough at it to make the descriptions worth it, then OK.
     
  18. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    I understand there's no need to describe every character, but I think some characters should be described, otherwise the story may turn quite dull.
     
  19. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I doubt the dullness of the story depends on the amount of description of characters. I got happily through Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself without any idea how Logen looks like. He was described in the next book (or at the very end of the 1st book, can't remember for sure) to be very much like I imagined. Suppose gruff warriors all look the same.

    As for the topic: you've received pretty good advice so far. I'm not sure how shiny real swords used in battle are or how distorted the image would be, though. Just don't force the description there; if it fits somewhere, great, if not, the reader fills in the blanks. If the POV is 3rd prsn limited, it'd be a bit weird if you slipped to omni so as to describe the character, but it's not really a rule I suppose.
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with [MENTION=53403]KaTrian[/MENTION]. I don't think the description of a character or lack thereof has any bearing on whether a story is dull. To the extent it does, it is more likely to be dull if you over-describe, because you have to really be able to pull off that kind of description to keep the reader interested. In most cases, I prefer the author say little or nothing about the character's description.
     
  21. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    Yes, if you over-describe it can be dull. But I can't imagine a story being good with a lack of description either.

    Btw, I am not saying a description of the MC is a must, because it's not. I've read many good stories where the MC didn't get described, once.
     

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