1. cragcrusher
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    cragcrusher New Member

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    Leaving Main Characters Without Description?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cragcrusher, Jun 13, 2015.

    In a book I am writing I have chosen to leave the main character without description so that the reader can visualize for themselves what he looks like based on context and small details. Is this an okay thing to do?
     
  2. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    If done well, sure. But hope that it will never be made into a movie.
     
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  3. cragcrusher
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    cragcrusher New Member

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    Thanks! I doubt it would ever be made into a movie haha..
     
  4. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    I'm a firm believer in the author's autonomy. You don't have to justify your choices or refer to some cosmic writing rulebook, just make sure you pull it off :p
    Saying that, I can't imagine having no description of a main character at all. The concept intrigues me...
     
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  5. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    No matter how beautiful your work is there will always be assholes who tear it apart. So just write. Practice. It's hard to develop bad habits in writing since it's so slow paced and cerebral.
     
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  6. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    When I get engrossed in a story I don't stop to wonder what a character looks like.
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it's a problem. Lots of books leave a lot of character description up to the reader's imagination. I prefer it that way.
     
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  8. TiffanyAnne
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    TiffanyAnne New Member

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    You can't please everyone! Write for you and your preference ... It's your art. Shape it how you want it to be :)

    That being said, I don't see it being a problem, honestly. I usually find myself picturing the character how I want to picture them anyway, regardless of anything the author has said in their description of said character.
     
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  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    As long as the character's tone & personality shine you don't need a description. I actually find sometimes it gets in the way not just as a writer - lets stop the action to gush about so-and-so's shiny blonde hair - but as a reader who might be disappointed that the mc didn't have brown hair.
     
  10. Sundowner
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    Sundowner Member

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    I have to agree. People sometimes forget that the reader has imagination, in fact you know they do otherwise they'd be watching television. As long as you can pull it off, you don't have to describe anything, the reader will just make assumptions, which, sometimes, is just easier than having to memorize details about the story.
     
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  11. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think that's fine; wouldn't have a problem with it if it feels natural for the story. If I remember correctly, the protagonist of Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger wasn't described at all. The novel is in first person, so it made sense. However, he (the protag) did note what people around him looked like, which made sense to me and I found those descriptions very fitting. Considering Waters' point-of-view choice, it's not really for the reader to imagine them 'cause you're experiencing the world through the narrator's eyes and perception, so it felt natural that she had decided this is how the characters look like and this is how the narrator will perceive them. I mean, the author's the one painting the images through words. Why not paint the images of the characters too? I think both can work and have worked, so it's really for the writer to decide.
     
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  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    As a reader, I prefer minimal character description.
     
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  13. Vrisnem
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    Vrisnem Member

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    I used to be wishy-washy with character details for the same reason. Then I had a retired editor look over one of my novels for me (for feedback purposes only) and it was one of the very first things she mentioned: she wanted to know what the main character looked like. I had a few friends look over the same manuscript and one of them also asked how I visualised the character. Seeing that comment, another friend said they'd been wondering the same thing.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sue Grafton has written 23 novels and a few short stories around her character Kinsey Millhone. In all those stories, if you collect ALL the descriptions of that character, you'll still have only a vague idea of her appearance.
     
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  15. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    How much detail is enough? I usually do hair and eye color and basic size. But, I don't go last that unless it's necessary, like they have a unusual mole or something.
     
  16. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    It's been done plenty and done well plenty.
     
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  17. Saralyn
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    Saralyn Member

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    Personally, I would have to have at least basic details of a character if I'm reading. I struggle to visualize so end up starting books and quit soon after, but I'm a believer in "if it's your book, do what you want".
     
  18. Vellidragon
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    Vellidragon Member

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    I've posted this elsewhere recently, but I do like to have some information as well, though if the character isn't described, then so be it. What bothers me though is when the character is left to the imagination at first and then described in a more detailed manner at a (much) later point when it's sure to interfere with the image I've had of them for the whole book up to that bit. I always find that frustrating since it's suddenly telling me I've been imagining them wrong all this time.
     
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  19. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    The MC in Len Deighton's spy thriller series The Ipcress File, Horse Under Water, Funeral in Berlin isn't described at all - in fact he doesn't even get a name! Again, first person POV.
     
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  20. bumble bee
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    Personally I have a very un-visual mind (forgive me, I'm tired- I'm sure there's a better way of expressing this!) I tend not to visualise characters and often subconsciously skip over physical descriptions of them.

    Unless it's important to your story or the way other characters react to them, (e.g. Jack Reacher's height) I don't see that it needs to be included at all.
     
  21. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    OK, I am getting tired of this. Tearing up someone else's work does not make you an asshole. It is called critique, and is a part of literature.
     
  22. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Similarly, critiquing someone's work doesn't give you immunity from being an asshole.
    It's in the delivery. Doctors don't go to the anxious kin of now-deceased patients and say "Bro, your mom died. Soz 'bout that.", even if it's strictly the same message as what they do actually say.
     
  23. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are a lot of posts, including the one I had originally quoted, which strongly imply if not in fact assert that people who criticize another's work are assholes, and to be ignored. This is a rather narcissistic mentality, that, while not surprising for our times, is concerning.

    While it's comforting to think that no matter what, probably not everyone will ever love your work, this distracts from the very real possibility that probably not anyone will love your work. This is because people have standards and because competition is high. Saying "*** the haters," this early on in the game is akin to writing with your head in the sand.
     
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  24. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    It's probably fine, but information about the protagonist should be fed throughout the story when necessary. On a more technical level, though, you protagonist's actions should say a great detail about him, anyway, without the need for massive amounts of description.
     
  25. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's fine. Critique is great. But when the reviewer starts mocking the author - whose work is otherwise well written - it channels over into assholery.
     

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