1. Alex_Hartman
    Offline

    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    338
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At a desk staring at a blank notebook.

    Faces

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Alex_Hartman, Sep 5, 2008.

    When I read a book, I see the character do whatever they are doing and hear them talk. For the most part I can see the character themselves.

    But the one thing I never see is their face.

    Never. Then I realized that I couldn't see the faces of my own characters. I can see their hair, their outfit, but never their face.

    I was saying this to one of my friends, but she never has a problem with it. She is one of those people who is amazing at sketching and painting and everything that can be done with a paper and pencil (...except writing) She is always creating her own faces on paper. I couldn't pass an art class to save my life, much less draw a face. I have a hard time thinking of one.

    Does anyone else find themselves unable to find a face? Or anything else that they should be able to see? :D:confused::cool::eek:
     
  2. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,892
    Location:
    Boston
    I never remember faces or even hair color for that matter. I'm so busy looking at other things that I forget about physical appearances. A lot of times, physical appearances are irrelevant to the plot and/or theme of the novel. There are exceptions however.
     
  3. Alex_Hartman
    Offline

    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    338
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At a desk staring at a blank notebook.
    That's true, it's not really important. I just think that it's sorta weird how it's really hard for me, not that I concentrate on it or anything.
     
  4. Palimpsest
    Offline

    Palimpsest Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2008
    Messages:
    147
    Likes Received:
    5
    I have no trouble seeing the face of a character while I read. I do have difficulty writing about a face: what do I say that won't freeze the flow of the story just so that the reader can have a thorough (thoroughly boring) look at the character? To name one distinguishing feature, like a button-nose or lantern jaw seems to work for others... but so much else gets left unsaid, or clumsily said, like the proportion between the usual component of parts (eyes, nose, mouth, ears) and bone structure, or fleshiness (the curve of his/her cheek...) so I just give up on that.

    Something general, like build, hair color/style combined with skin tone, is much easier. I never understood most writers' fascination with iris color, since what I think makes eyes beautiful is more the shape of the skin around the eyeball-- which, just from that sentence, you can imagine is difficult for me to write romantically and (more important) individualistically: they can't all have cat-angled eyes and long lashes. :p
     
  5. Kylie
    Offline

    Kylie Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    Messages:
    273
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    America
    Now that I think of it, I realize that most of the time, I don't see the face of the characters in the books I read. I see everything but the face. I always wondered why that was. As for the characters in the stories I write, that varies. If I think about it more, it definitely helps me 'find' the face.
    I don't know how important the faces are, but for me, it really helps when I can imagine the setting of the book I'm reading or am writing.
     
  6. _Ed
    Offline

    _Ed New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2008
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Hell
    I can picture 'em, but it's usually not fatal to the plot.
     
  7. Becca D
    Offline

    Becca D Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    I never see faces when I read, either (I've thought about that a lot, actually). Even when I imagine real people (like friends, or movie characters), I have trouble pulling up their face in my mind. That might be why I can't ever clearly see faces of 'people' that I haven't actually seen before.
     
  8. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I visualize faces. But that's also how I am in real life. I look people in the eye when they talk, and I pay attention to facial expression and tics. So much of communication is visual subtext.

    However, I tend not to describe faces, unless it's a stand-out feature that matters to the story.

    If I were writing a crime story from the POV of a cop or a P.I., I would describe faces, because the POV character would have the habit of noting every feature, essentially build up an internal "mug shot" of everyone potentially involved.

    In other stories, I describe only what catches the POV character's attention - In my story Blue, it's the beautiful dream woman's dark hair, blue dress, and sapphire blue eyes. I had a very clear image of what she looked like; I'm sure every reader had a somewhat different view.
     
  9. tehuti88
    Offline

    tehuti88 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Michigan
    I'm bad with faces, but I think this might be because I'm painfully shy in real life so I don't look at people. I've found that a lot of people who know me, I haven't a clue what they look like. I've been seeing a psychologist for a year or two now and I still don't know what her face is like because I can't bring myself to look up at her.

    If one doesn't tend to focus on faces, then one won't be good at envisioning them, IMO.

    I learned how to draw, so I could finally envision some of my characters, but again, many of them look a lot alike; even though I use a cartoony style to draw, I have trouble differentiating things. I can envision faces and such, but they're usually quite generic and similar. I can recognize faces (famous ones, actors, that sort of thing), but if asked to describe them, I'm awful at it; I know I'd be lousy as a witness for a sketch artist!

    It's like, I can envision a face all put together, but focusing on the individual characteristics of the face, one by one--nose shape, eyebrows, eye shape, etc.--I just can't do it.
     
  10. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    We don't recognize faces by parts though, we recognize them by image pattern matching. To visualize actual parts, you have to learn to look at faces differently. It's a skill most artists consciously develop. It doesn't come all that naturally to most people.
     
  11. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,901
    Likes Received:
    10,090
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I think it depends on your emphasis in recognition in real life. I have a ridiculously photographic memory for faces. Ten minutes chatting with you in line at the grocery store and the memory of your face is with me forever. Names on the other hand…. Not so much.

    My b/f has somewhat faulty facial recognition skills. All actresses with brown hair and oval faces are the same person to him, Sandra Bullock.

    Studies in memory show that it is a very multifaceted phenomenon. It’s not just one thing.
     
  12. Lucy E.
    Offline

    Lucy E. Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2008
    Messages:
    898
    Likes Received:
    4
    This is going to make very little sense, so bear with me...
    I know what the characters' faces look like, and I can see them providing I'm not purposely trying to picture them. If I consciously try to picture them, I can't see them.
    ...If that made any sense at all, which it probably didn't.
     
  13. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    It's because human memory is associative in nature. When you think of a name and think "face", the mind immediately recalls the recognition pattern for the face. But when you try to visualize features associated with the face, you come up with blanks because the data simply isn't stored that way unless you've really examined the face with an "artist's eye."
     
  14. NaCl
    Offline

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    58
    I don't view "faces", I see dynamics in both real life and in characters. For example, the lift of a single eyebrow signifies skepticism or the furrow of a brow conveys disapproval. A gentle smile versus broad grin, squinting, wrinkle of the nose, drooping cheeks. I see actions . . . dynamics, if you will . . . when I think of faces.
     
  15. Alex_Hartman
    Offline

    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    338
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At a desk staring at a blank notebook.
    I think I do that too. I can see one part of a face, like the eyebrow or the smile, just not the whole face. It's like the face is only sort of there.

    I would never start describing a face just for the heck of it, but I don't even think I could. The farthest I think that I could get would be, "He has a nose in the middle of his face and his eyes are above his nose."

    It's weird how everyone has a different face, not a single one is the same, but every description of a face would be pretty much the same.
     
  16. ZionsRodeVos
    Offline

    ZionsRodeVos New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Woodbridge, Virginia
    Interesting.

    While reading this and after finishing this thread I am trying to focus on the faces of the two main characters in the book I am currently reading. I can see their eyes or smile but can't get a clear picture of their faces. I can see the woman with long hair and the muscles on the man cause the woman was bandaging up a wound and she noticed. Oh and the man has bushy eyebrows.

    However, for books that happen to have a picture of the main character on the front cover I can see that face just fine as I also have a tendency to look people in the eye when they are talking and in the case of books if there are pictures of the characters in them then I look at them.
     
  17. ciavyn
    Offline

    ciavyn Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2008
    Messages:
    123
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Harrisburg, PA
    I'm the exact opposite - I always see faces, and of course, they are usually someone on television or that I've met. Sometimes they are a combination thereof.

    Always knew I was strange....:confused:
     
  18. AnonymousWriter
    Offline

    AnonymousWriter Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2008
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    1
    I'm the same with reading a book; I don't often picture their face. It's different when I'm writing though. I always find a picture on the internet that resembles my main character. I nearly always have it open on my pc when I'm writing, so their face is always in my head. It also helps as inspiration.
     
  19. Scarecrow28
    Offline

    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2008
    Messages:
    496
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    That's Classified
    I can picture the face or the body, but have trouble picturing both at once.
     
  20. TheFedoraPirate
    Offline

    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2007
    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    1
    I can always see faces and such clearly but, strangely, I never tend to imagine the character as looking quite how the book describes them.
     
  21. Acglaphotis
    Offline

    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2008
    Messages:
    912
    Likes Received:
    3
    When I write, I picture the scenes in my head, but they often have blankfaces. Pretty much the same when I read, but only until they make a description (even a vague one). I am not a very visual person.
     
  22. Alex_Hartman
    Offline

    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    338
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At a desk staring at a blank notebook.

    I read that going around and taking pictures of random people and having them around you when you write is inspiring. I'd like to do that. The only problem is that people would notice me taking pictures of them. =/
     
  23. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    Often times novelist do not describe faces. Nonetheless I still see faces a lot. It might be because I am a painter. I don't see the face right away though. I have to get to know the character, and then a face emerges from platitude of imagery in my mind.

    If the author does a good job at characterization I will see a face, even if they never describe what they look like. In the short story by NaCi, here on this forum, called Rice Wine, I could see his MCs faces, and I don't recall him ever describing them. He did a really good job of characterization that I felt I knew these people.

    The same thing happens to me online. When I am in voice chat, as I get to know someone, I can see their face. It is often not what they really look like though. Then once I see their photo, it forever ruins that image. Now when they talk on voice I bounce between both images.

    Dang I need to cut the length of my posts down.
     
  24. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    Oh I was curious though. Are you able to see a face by either of these passages?

    He was tall, thin, and dressed in black. His nose was long; Neil saw it from afar. Some say pets resemble their owners, if so then this man’s pet must have been a vulture.

    And another.

    “Just because you’re a business man, and look like a nerdy Tom Cruise, doesn’t mean you can’t do something freaky with your freaky sister.”

    For me this is usually enough for me to get a lose image of a face. Key features, and or comparison to someone I already know, such as Tom Cruise. I can imagine a Tom Cruise with glasses. What about a red headed little girl with freckles that dotted her cheeks?
     
  25. Alex_Hartman
    Offline

    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    338
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At a desk staring at a blank notebook.
    I can see the person. I can see a scary looking guy with a long nose. But not his whole face. I can't see his eyes or his mouth. I don't know what his ears look like. Or what his eyebrows look like. But I get the general idea. He's kinda freaky.
     

Share This Page