1. MellowDeath
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    MellowDeath New Member

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    How do I describe a character's physical appearance?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MellowDeath, Sep 20, 2016.

    Hey everyone
    What's the best way to describe a character's physical appearance? I'm not talking about clothes but about the facial features and such. I have a person I know in real life and want to turn her into a character in a story, how do I do that?
     
  2. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you have a picture of her, study it and describe what you see in simple terms. It's best to look at them in the same way a caricaturist would and pick out anything unusual. Does she have a big nose? Dimple in her chin? Close set eyes?

    As a reader we don't need (or want) much. This isn't directed at your character in particular, so don't be offended, but truth is we're not particularly interested in getting a photo-fit picture of the characters. As long as we know their gender and general appearance we'll join the dots ourselves.
     
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  3. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a minimalist when it comes to description, I definitely agree with this. Often when I read, you could give all the details in the world about what a character or a building or a tree looks like, and all I'll see in my mind is a sparsely detailed blur. I never cling to any of the descriptions, except maybe hair color and body size. Maybe. So I write to that--I only give a name, maybe hair color, and a hint at body size. If there's something noteworthy--a character's nose as an important plot point/insecurity/flaw/what have you, then I'll call that out as well. But only if necessary.

    I think this has a lot to do with who's telling your story--not you, I mean, but which character's eyes are we looking through? That character will tell you what to describe and by how much. That character will notice things and not notice things, will place importance on certain things over other things, will care about one thing and not another. A character in love with a cute girl will notice certain aspects of what she looks like, while an interviewer screening a job applicant will notice other aspects of what she looks like. Let that POV determine what and how much gets described.
     
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  4. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    Does your character have a distinct feature that is central to the story or to his character? If so, start with that. I find that for the vast majority of characters, little attention is paid to their physical features and for good reason, they are usually not important. For my one book the only reason i described my leads hair colour and eyes were to show the contrast between him and his brother because they are of mixed race. I like the idea of readers creating their own idea of how the characters look for the most part.
     
  5. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    I think the description is in who the character is. Like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, it doesn't matter what her facial features are, what matters is that she's desperate to get off the farm etc.....
     
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  6. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    Absolutely. I remember reading an article, basically a "clap back" at all the hater of Zendaya being cast as Mary-Jane in the new Spiderman movie.

    I love this quote:
    "“For me, if a character’s primary attribute — the thing that makes them iconic — is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks,” Gunn said. “For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she’ll work. And, for the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ’s primary physical characteristics — she’s a tall, thin model — much more so than actresses have in the past.” - James Gunn

    I know that's not what you are trying to do OP, but I just wanted to point out the reasons why some people don't focus on the looks of their character as much. For me its easier to describe looks but its harder to capture the actual character of the character.
     

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