1. g_man526
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    g_man526 Member

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    Don't want my MC to be "seen"

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by g_man526, Sep 8, 2011.

    As in I don't want to give a physical description beyond her being short. Is that okay? In fact, describing the physical appearance of any of my cast aside from villains and wise sages might be a rare occurrence indeed. Will readers let that fly?
     
  2. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course it's okay. I've read many books where the MC is never described, as well as some where they aren't even named, and it has never bothered me. I eventually conjure my own image of them based on body language, actions and dialogue.
     
  3. JohnKPatterson
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    JohnKPatterson Member

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    Yoshiko is right. Go for it. There is no need for you to give much detail in describing a main character. Most people don't muse on their own wavy blonde hair or searching blue eyes as they go on with their daily existence, so depending on the voice you write in, such descriptions might feel jarring and out of place. Personally, I lean a little towards wanting characters described vividly, but that is because I am extremely visually minded, and want to know what everything looks like in the scenery. Still, I am fine with stories that keep the character's image to minimum important characteristics - height, in your case.

    Best of luck to you in your writing!
     
  4. Victoria Baye
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    Victoria Baye Member

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    Nope, it's not necessary, but without a physical description for readers to grab onto, you'll need to be fastidious developing your character's metaphysical characteristics. Personally, I think that it adds to the suspense of stories when the MC ISN'T described, but you need to be deliberate in not describing him. Ensure that your audience knows that you didn't just forget to describe him by, like I said developing the character well. As long as your character is concrete enough to move people to feel something for him, we don't need to know what he looks like. :)
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Not a problem. I prefer stories where the characters have little description - maybe a feature or two that stands out. Beyond that, it gets annoying :)
     
  6. Steve89
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    Steve89 Member

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    Yeah I agree. I think it can be rather patronising when writers describe everything about a character's appearance. As long as the basics are covered readers will create their own image of the character.
     
  7. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    People who spend a long paragraph describing all the details of their character's physical appearance are probably compensating for a lack of depth anyway. Descriptions are getting more detailed all round in modern literature, especially more popular/less literary stuff. Go back to earlier novels and it's a lot harder to find a "pause the game to look the character up and down" moment. There's just generally a feeling like more words need to be spent on non-relevant things these days.
     
  8. Steve89
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    Steve89 Member

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    Yeah like what football team the MC supports or what their favourite food is. I say stick to the story, we don't need to know the MC's inside leg measurement.
     
  9. Chivalrous Tart
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    Chivalrous Tart Member

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    Not describing a main character is trending towards Stephanie Myer's Twilight style, where insecure teenage readers are supposed to implement themselves as the main character. Stephanie Myers sells books, whether or not she is a talented writer, that's debatable. I think you should have one or two details that stick out to the reader, but you shouldn't describe everything about the guy. It's tedious.

    Good stories will give every main character physical appearance, dialogue, actions, and thoughts. In my personal opinion, the main character shouldn't be any different. If you don't give your character a description, he/she isn't memorable. So unless you're purposely trying to imitate Myers, I recommend mentionning one or two specific details about the main character.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I disagree.

    Meyer, in fact is guilty of the kind of zealous overdescription you are recommending, especially description of thoughts.
     
  11. Quorum1
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    Quorum1 Member

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    Nothing wrong with not describing appearance, usually your reader will make it up themselves anyway, and if you're writing in first person it makes more sense not to describe (after all, how many of us sit around thinking, 'I have blonde hair and green eyes...').

    I was reading a book once and realised I was three chapters in and didn't even know the main character's name, I hadn't even noticed and it certainly hadn't affected my enjoyment of the story.

    Do what comes naturally!
     
  12. JohnKPatterson
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    JohnKPatterson Member

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    Cogito, I think Chivalrous Tart had specified that the main character ought to have physical description. Not a view I always agree with, but the way I understand it, Meyers placed her descriptive power entirely behind the secondary characters, not to Bella Swan herself (as Tart already said, a stand-in for the readers).
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    And how many of us would love to fail as successfully as she has? ;)
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Be careful with thoughts. Unless you have an omniscient narrator or multiple POVs you will be breaking the "rules" of the narrative mode if you give every main character thoughts. A lot of great stories have been told with a 3rd person limited POV, where no character's thoughts can be reported. Also be aware that thoughts are closely associated with telling rather than showing. Telling is not bad in itself, but writers rarely need encouraging to do more of it.
     
  15. Steve89
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    Steve89 Member

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    No offence guys, but if you are going to discuss an author, you should try to get her name right. (Stephenie Meyer) ;).
     
  16. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I think it works both ways,
    You can write an interesting novel with a well described(interesting) MC, or with just the basics, female and short, might work.

    The reason is simple, there are people that have a good imagination and can picture the person easily, and there are those that want it painted for them in vivid colors.

    I wrote a long involved description of a baby dragon, but it fit in the story. The girl had been fleeing from pursers for several chapters even witnessing the hatching of the dragon and never stopped to look at her, then finally she felt safe, and could actually stop and smell the roses.
    I think love means noticing the small things, so if there is no love interest the description should be less.

    Consider what you notice when you meet someone, friend not a potential mate.
    height, build, attitude, maybe an outstanding characteristic(fiery red hair, strange hair cut, taped nerd glasses etc.) You don't tend to look them over and find every detail about them in the first few minutes, and if you did the person would probably think you were crazy and flee.
     
  17. Melanie
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    Melanie Member

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    I guess I'm going to go a little against the grain, here. As a reader, it drives me a little crazy to not get a few descriptive details worked somewhere into the first chapter, even if it's only the character's physical build and hair color/length. It helps me to imagine the character a little better. I don't mean to say that I absolutely wouldn't enjoy a book without character descriptions, but it certainly helps me get into a story.
     

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