1. LaurenM
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    LaurenM Member

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    What character appearances do you think are overused?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by LaurenM, Jul 22, 2011.

    Not necessarily character development in a sense, but it fits best in this section. What physical appearances of characters in books (hair color, eye color, skin color) do you feel are terribly overused or you just plain don't like?

    For me, it's blue eyes or 'Kaleidoscope eyes' or some other odd ball eye color. Which is ironic, seeing as I have blue eyes myself. They're just so common in books to me.

    So, what about you?

    (And sorry if this is in the wrong spot, but it seemed like the right place. Forgive me if it's not.)
     
  2. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Anything unnatural if it serves as a plot point. Eg: this person is special because they have X-coloured Y.

    I'm not a fan of fantasy or sci-fi so I'm just thinking of the natural colours that exist in the real world. As it's so limited (compared to what you might find through dyeing/contacts/etc) I don't think it's fair to say that anything natural is overused.
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Nothing really. The appearance of a character doesn't bother me much and I usually end up imagining it in my own view anyway.
     
  4. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    Characters with abnormal hair colors for no reason. Especially if they are accepted by people straight away.

    However, characters that dye their hair as a statement, for tradition, or have a condition are interesting. Said characters have to deal with different social issues than normal people - do they let their culture define them, how do they react to others reactions, do they like their appearance?

    OT:
    I hate long blonde hair and hazel eyes. Something about the word hazel makes me wretch.
     
  5. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    I really appreciate it when an author makes their character have brown eyes, because that is the most common eye color in the world.
    However, Khaled Hohseini made one of his MC's blond with light eyes. The plot didn't treat this as some mark of superiority or perfect beauty, but more of a mixed blessing--ultimately more of a curse. (EDIT: I am talking about the female MC in A Thousand Splendid Suns, the blonde in Kite Runner is practically Satan himself.)
    However, Jean Auel's Ayla is a little annoying to me. She is always emphasized as tall, blonde, athletic, smart, social, feminine--she is just a little too flawless blonde/swimsuit model type.
    Maybe her appearance is just emphasized too much for my taste. However, I really enjoyed the Earth's Children series. And Ayla is obviously portrayed as intelligent, but with emotional vulnerabilities.

    DNA research actually shows that Neanderthals (who evolved in the colder, darker climate of Europe) probably had the genes for light skin, and light colored hair. While the homo sapiens would be coming up from Africa and probably have more dark skinned/dark haired genes initially(to keep them protected from the strong sun). Auel gives them opposite characteristics--but she had older theories and preconceptions to deal with when she started the series.

    I think it's kind of refreshing when the author takes an average looking character (or even one with physical disability) and makes them really interesting and beautiful inside. Dean Koontz does this well. That wins my regard more than going on about their unusually beautiful, exotic, physical characteristics.

    That being said, one of my characters is African American man with blue eyes. He is the only character that has blue eyes...but the blue eyes just felt right, even though it isn't a common eye color for African Americans. I think I like it because it reminds me that there isn't really a concrete division between the "races." I've known several African Americans with reddish hair, freckles, and blue eyes.
     
  6. Earphone
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    Earphone Active Member

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    Sunglasses definitely. Whenever there are any agents of any kind, sunglasses are sure to be worn. While I realize that those are accessories and not actual physical attributes, they still lend to the appearance.
     
  7. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    Whenever someone uses the word "normal" to describe someone. Appearance or likewise.
     
  8. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    I like abnormal hair colors on characters. I have plenty of those created myself. As long as it's explained, theres nothing wrong with it.
     
  9. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    I'm probably just knit-picking here, but when a majority of the main characters of the story are described as being incredibly good-looking. If it's a story about actors or supermodels or something, then sure, that makes sense - but a bunch of people coming together and becoming friends/going on a magical adventure/gaining superpowers/whatever, and they all just happen to be drop-dead gorgeous? I'm not hating them 'cause they're beautiful, it just seems like it'd be a weird coincidence.

    Also, the phrase "big blue eyes". It always makes me think of big, sparkly animu eyes.
     
  10. LaurenM
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    LaurenM Member

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    Good point, Suddenly Banshees. One or two characters being good looking-understandable. Every single one? Unrealistic.
     
  11. Lost_in_Thought
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    Lost_in_Thought Member

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    I hate the word normal! Like how are you to imagian someone if they call them normal! Normal can mean many things. Like if you asked someone on the streets what what a normal girl/guy looks like there answer would most likely be different from yours.
    ~
    In fact I believe everyone is beautiful and special in their own way:).....


    except me ​
     
  12. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hate that too. Some writers can't write about a person if she/he isn't "drop dead gorgeous", and it becomes even more evident if it's the female character and all the others all "plain, normal people". gaah. especially if her good looks has no purpose in the story.
    It's the same as in movies, actually, it seems filmmakers think we can't care about or feel for someone who isn't beauuuutiful. bah.
     
  13. Kaye00
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    Kaye00 New Member

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    The only thing I hate is when characters are given a strange feature (hair, eye color, ect) only to make them 'special', but specifically when there is no reason for it. If they dye their hair or wear colored contacts, ok. I'll even accept them being of a strange race or species, so long as it's explained at some point.
    However, when a character has bright green eyes and looks nothing like their peers and no one blinks an eye? That's a little dumb to me. Which is particularly why I've gotten sick of most anime...
     
  14. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I second... or third that. I actually am writing about a group getting superpowers. But I try to make them real-looking. One is described as downright ugly even (got loads of scars after being hit in the face with a beer bottle), but it's only on the outside. On the inside they are lovely people.

    Something I have thought of though, is that if this story gets made into a movie (by some random chance), there would be no one who could play the characters. Not a single one of them is really good looking. At most, one of the girls is described as cute by another character.
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't worry, they would probably be casted with beautiful actors anyway ;) I have yet to see a movie with ugly actors, and in the cases that they are based on novels, I doubt it that they were all beautiful to begin with. even the guy with scars in his face would be beautiful regardless of that. at least if the movie would be a american production.
     
  16. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    In fiction, everything is overused, and therefore nothing is overused.

    Sorry, just couldn't resist saying something paradoxical. :p But seriously, typical people only have so many different hair and eye colors and appearances. And being abnormal for the sake of it doesn't seem to have much purpose. So IMO, we can't really single anything out as being overused.
     
  17. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    I...fourth this? Eh, anyway, I agree: extremely unrealistic and downright annoying because of the lack of realism. My own female MC, a lieutenant, is extremely intelligent and highly respected, insanely brave, but--though not exactly ugly--she's neither pretty nor handsome in the feminine way, and most of the other characters--aside from a badly scarred and downright insane sergeant--are average or plain with regards to looks.
     
  18. lemurkat
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    lemurkat Senior Member

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    Violet or mis-matched eyes.

    I've used "big blue eyes" in my current story, but the protagonist IS a blue-eyed lemur. She's unusual (most lemurs have golden-amber-orange-red eyes) and it is very important to the plot.
     
  19. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Evil characters who are albinos.

    I think the characters with green, blue or red hair in anime are supposed to have dyed their hair - it started when punk was popular back in the 70's. A little weird when they appear in medieval fantasy settings, though. Makes it seem the writer hasn't thought through their character design beyond "He looks cool with green hair!"
     
  20. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    "Tall, dark and handsome"
    I am SERIOUSLY sick and tired of reading this description in books!! That has got to be THE most overused description I've ever read.
    Another one is the super pretty main characters. I try to avoid the super pretty main characters because they drive me nuts. I do have some very good looking characters in maybe one or two books, but nothing over the top pretty. Like my one character who could possibly be very pretty, she's not because she has a lot of scars all over her body, and she doesn't exactly pay attention to the concept of personal hygene (then again who did back in medieval times?). Plus she's got a real bad attitude towards people, and tends to act like a male (it has nothing to do with appearance but it does make her ugly to some people).
    But yeah, I seriously try to avoid "Tall, dark and handsome" and the super pretty characters. They're so overused anymore.
    As for weird hair colors, when I first started writing I was guilty of them (my one character had purple and red hair ^^;;;; ) but anymore I try to stay in the limits of everyday hair colors, unless it's for a supreme reason. In one of my stories this demon has silver-white hair, but the only reason for this is because his true demon form has pure silver-white fur like a dog. I might change it, not entirely sure yet but for now I'm sticking with it.
     
  21. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm writing a series about 4 teenage girls, and at various points in the series they describe each other or themselves as gorgeous - but for every time they do that, from a different view point in the next book someone will make a point of complaining how they really aren't that good looking. :p I think the only one who's escaped so far is the one who went on to say *all* her friends were hideous hags in comparison to herself.

    /likes having fun with this sort of thing :D

    Anyways, there's a worrying lack of brunettes in the fiction world... As someone who's got plain old brown hair, I'm pretty sure it's rather common, yet people always have "dark" hair, or are blonde/red-headed/auburn. I can't remember the last major character I read who had mousy brown hair that they didn't just shamefully admit to while buying fresh packets of dye. You get the occasional "chestnut" but only after it's becoming statistically impossible for the author to introduce any more red heads and blondes. :p

    As revenge, I imagine all characters who aren't specifically stated as anything else being brunette :D

    Anyway. Seems we have a lot more unity over this than the archetypes thread. :p I guess the stereotype awful description we're imagining is just so MUCH worse than a wearing character's behaviour. :p
     
  22. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Don't worry Melzaar. I have a normally brown haired girl in my story :). Although some characters have abnormal hair colors, i manage to balance both for my story series. (9 book series) :)
     
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  23. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    I have a friend who would argue this fact with you to no end.
    He thinks, with all his heart that in this instance I will use A, B, etc.

    If a guy Is a B and a girl is an A A's do not mix with B's unless they are slumming it for some reason.

    B's desire A's but can not have, and keep an A for even if they bag an A the A will get bored and become what he refers to as a "mall spouse" where they go to the gym, mall or other places where B will not feel comfortable and thus gives the A person time, and opertunity to find and screw around with another A.
    B's however rarely stray, as they do not want to lose their A, when they find out about the A's extra activities, they will forgive this for the same reason. However if a B is bold enough to step out the A will drop them like a hot potato.

    However when two A's get together they will both step out from time to time and neither will notice or care about the others dealings. however they want A children, thus do everything in their power to make sure that is what they produce tiny carbon copies of themselves...
    (his thinking is a bit odd as you can see.)

    How many actors, actresses do you know that married Normal people??? 1 maybe 2 and usualy before they hit the big time...


    There is an old saying "Birds of a feather flock together." How many Parakeets hang out with the crows? it just goes aginst nature...
    The only reason a hot 10 chick will hang out with a 7 or lower is to make herself seem MORE attractive than the other 10's in the area. most people are extreamly shallow. imho
     
  24. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    For me, it's not the appearance itself that makes me think cliche (except purple eyes, because just ... come on). It's the way appearance is described. Here are some red flags:

    - the word "flowing" when applied to hair
    - any hair/eye/skin color comparision along the lines of "like a shimmering sea," "like the brightly scattered leaves of autumn," "creamy as the smoothest marble" etc
    - when the author goes on about how someone's facial lines make them look older than they are because they represent all their years of anguish. Nothing wrong with someone looking worry-lined or haggard, but there IS something wrong with excessive emo infodumps about it
    - When the MC is pretty but her sidekick BFFs are all less attractive
    - Eyes that sparkle, glimmer, flash change colors.

    Do anyone's eyes actually gleam brighter when they have a good idea? Really? :p
     
  25. MRD
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    MRD Senior Member

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    Well, one could argue that a person's eyes open wide when they have a good idea, in a "oh my god, didn't think of that" kinda way. But bulging frog-eyes aren't really what writers tend to want their readers to picture.

    "Shining" seems like a fair enough compromise.


    But then, on the other hand, there aren't little light bulbs behind peoples eyes that go "ding" when you have a good idea, so...
     

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