1. Hero-Jean629
    Offline

    Hero-Jean629 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2011
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Under the Sea

    What physical traits constitutes a person a "plain jane" or "average joe"?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Hero-Jean629, May 8, 2012.

    Writing this one novel and one of the characters is very plain looking despite her role as one of the main characters. I have my own opinions of what looks plain looking but I want to get more opinions from others. So far I have heard things from "doesn't follow the trends" or "doesn't stick out then again doesn't really blend in" but I want opinions to be more detailed than that. Tell me what hair color, eye color, nose size/shape, face shape, chin, cheeks, etc that you think makes a person plain-looking.
     
  2. Youniquee
    Offline

    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    733
    Likes Received:
    36
    Location:
    Under your bed.
    Well, it depends on what the person thinks. A lot of people are going think of a variety of things.
    Bad example yay: I think Zac Efron is pretty hot.
    A few people might thing he's 'an average Joe'.
    That's why it's kind of hard to answer this question hmmm. I would say someone who you'll look at once and not look at again. They're just another passing person and nothing about them stands out. That's all I can say about it.

    I don't see how hair colour, eye colour ect. can make someone plain in my opinion. Although, the person could be plain if they didn't wear much variety of clothing and just the necessaries every single day. Also, dull colours might make a person look plain too.

    I hoped this slightly helped, even though most of it just me talking about the actual question asked...
     
  3. ManOrAstroMan
    Offline

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    817
    Likes Received:
    342
    Location:
    Missouri
    As for physical descriptions? Well, part of that will depend on ethnicity and nationality. When I think "plain" or "average," it makes me think of someone who hits the statistical medium, which will vary depending on where your character is from. Brown hair and eyes are the most common, mostly because they're genetically dominant. But if your character lives in Stockholm, then someone with darker coloring will stick out more.
    Level of attractiveness is considerably more subjective, and much harder to pin down when you have to describe your main character. People automatically picture someone either ugly or beautiful when reading a character's description, and a surprisingly small detail can send that mental compass swinging either way.
    Style can vary a lot depending on location. In the midwest, where I live, basic jeans and t-shirts are the standard uniform for men and women alike. A person in a suit or some trendy getup will instantly attract attention, as much as someone wearing something hideous by the standards of fashion. But, in places like Manhattan, a guy in a suit is as much a part of the background as anything else.
     
  4. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
    Any plain Jane characters that i have met, have either been shy and introvert or the academic type.

    As for their colouring, it had nothing to do with it.
     
  5. MissRis
    Offline

    MissRis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Canada
    Plain Jane/Joe to me is that there is nothing striking about them. Usually I would say brown hair/eyes because that's the most common colouring. They would not be overly smart or charismatic. They probably dress in neutral colours (think black, white, beige) - nothing that would draw attention to them.

    I think ManorAstroMan provides a very good answer to this question.

    However, I would like to add that if you are writing for a primarily North American audience and perhaps your work is somewhat fantastical in nature - I would say stick to the brown hair/eyes because within North America those are considered average and thus, "plain jane."
     
  6. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    441
    Likes Received:
    20
    For me, they're the people I can't tell apart (I'm prosopagnosic). In terms of attractiveness, they won't be extremely ugly (ugly people tend to be distinctive looking) but they could be anywhere from average to pretty. (Some pretty people are boring-pretty, others are pretty in an unusual way. Most actors, in my opinion, are boring-pretty, which can make movies hard for me to watch because everyone looks the same.)

    In terms of specific features, this will depend on your context. Here is a set of pictures of averaged faces of people from different countries.
     
  7. killbill
    Offline

    killbill Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2012
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    where the mind is without fear...
    Personally, I won't do this and I recommend you do the same. The idea of a plain looking person or a beautiful person is subjective. Your idea of a plain looking girl is definitely going to differ from many readers' idea of a plain looking girl. So, don't rely too much on physical descriptions and definitely NOT by listing her physical features. Since she is your MC, you may want to explore other, deeper options like self esteem issues and her up bringing, because at least 50 percent of the reasons of the ugliness of a so called ugly girl are those reasons. Think about it, at least half the people walking the ramps as models can be considered not-so-beautiful or even plain-looking before they were trained to be a model. The confidence that they exude in the way they walk or when they face the camera is what makes them beautiful. At the other end of the scale your plain looking character will lack self confidence which will show in her mannerism like walking, talking... She might most likely be the number one critic of her own physical appearance.

    To sum up, if you were to give her hair color and eye color to let me, a reader, know that she is ugly, I simply won't get it because hair color and eye color have nothing to do with my idea of an ugly girl.
     
  8. The Tourist
    Offline

    The Tourist Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    1,089
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Wisconsin.
    I would ask one question, how do you envision them walking into a room?

    For example, my clothing means nothing. I could climb into a time machine and go back to the 1940s or '50s and my peer group wouldn't even notice. Coloring means nothing. Over my lifetime I have been a tow head blonde, auburn, and now silvery white and gray.

    But I have always entered a room the same way--like I own it. I walk directly to my destination, be that across a parking lot, to the item in the store, or to my favorite seat in the house.

    I also watch people. I see timid people everyday who seem to feel they need permission to breath the world's oxygen. The saunter through life, being interrupted by every hoe-handle in life, mimicking a ball bearing in a pinball game. They take the first answer people give, as if they don't deserve anymore from life.

    If your character is plain, don't describe the 'body.' Describe the body language.
     
  9. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Someone who is plain is someone you wouldn't give a second look if they walked into a room. It's the girl who is not seen as pretty, nor as ugly. It's the guy who you look at in your yearbook and struggle to remember anything about him.

    Note that the people who ARE considered beautiful usually aren't really any different in the details. They carry themselves differently, they make the best of their appearance, and they don't shrink into the shadows. Generally, they like themselves, although sometimes that is just a well-played sham.
     
  10. T.Trian
    Offline

    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,246
    Likes Received:
    1,449
    Location:
    Mushroom Land
    It's pretty easy to experiment with this stuff. In self-defense circles at least, there's a term called "the gray man." It implies a certain type of clothes, haircut, demeanor etc. which will make the individual disappear into a crowd and doesn't draw attention. Some self-defense people use this to avoid trouble: the bad guys are less likely to pick them as their intended targets because nothing stands out, it's hard to tell if the guy is rich, poor, strong, weak, shy, or brave. LEOs sometimes try to spot these gray men because often terrorists try to go for the gray man-look when they are e.g. planting a bomb somewhere and want to reach their target and escape without attracting attention to themselves. There's a chapter about this stuff in... I think it was some kind of an SAS manual I have somewhere gathering dust; information that might help undercover agents to blend into crowds.

    If the same person just combed their hair differently (say, instead of parting it in the middle, they part it on left or right so that some hair falls over their eyes), wore different pants (e.g. butt-hugging bootcut, low-waist jeans instead of straight, gray dress pants), and shirts (e.g. a snug t-shirt with some cool picture/text on it instead of a white dress shirt one size too big), and carried themselves with confidence instead of shuffling about around the corners, people would perceive them very differently although their bodies are exactly the same size and dimensions as before. Just how a person stands and walks can make a huge difference: if they hunch a bit and shuffle their feet, they'll leave a different imprint into the memories of those around them than if they jutted out their chests and walked with a swagger.

    I believe these things are more important when going for the plain jane/average joe-look than what shape/size their facial features are, how tall/heavy they are etc. etc.
     
  11. La_Donna
    Offline

    La_Donna Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    3
    I'd go for average everything. If it's a girl; mousy brown hair, 5"5, brown eyes, freckles, not fat, not thin. If it's a boy, exactly the same but a bit taller. No "electric blue eyes", no "sunshine gold hair" etc
     
  12. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    This is a tricky question to answer. For me plain is more about behavior than appearance. Physical appearance doesn't have a tremendous affect on how I view people. I know a good amount of people who also feel this way. When I think of plain I think of who actively tries to make themselves invisible to others. Probably very soft spoken, plain dressing, someone who is a bystander in situations and not a participant. If you want to be invisible and not leave a mark I believe those are some of the best ways to accomplish that. Hope that is helpful. :)
     
  13. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Seconded.

    And the same person can be "plain" today, "striking" the second. If I think about hair, body or facial features... If nothing really sticks out. The nose is average, the lips are thin, the eyes are of regular shape and size, the height and weight are average (you wouldn't describe them tall or skinny, or short or chubby, or muscular). Maybe an average length, flimsy hair. But still, you have to have more than the features there, and behavior plays a huge role. Also, note that people (girls, I'm looking at you), often consider themselves plainer than they really are.
     
  14. NewAgeFiction
    Offline

    NewAgeFiction Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2013
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    USA

    Be careful with that. For one thing, there are many people with those traits who are considered "gorgeous". Another because it could be deemed "ethnically biased" in that only (or mostly) fair haired/blue eyed caucasion people are handsome and beautiful (I have no doubt you didn't mean it that way at all). But also just because what's most common might not have anything to do with what's attractive versus unattractive.

    I think what might constitute a "plain Jane/Joe" appearance are people who have a "bland" look (more than "ugly" per say). They don't try to make themselves attractive, and also might have physical features that are not necessarily 'protrusive', but....I don't really know how to put it! Just, plain, or dare I say "boring" to the eyes. For women, it could be short hair that's not styled in any way. For men, hair do's that are not long, but not recently trimmed (mullets are a bullet-point example that sadly just don't go away haha). Just think of it, I guess, as people who are around the "average" mark who don't TRY to improve their overall countenance. People who would look a bit more handsome if they DID try. Also be careful of "guy/girl next door", I've found that that has no real meaning at all since the phrase is used by the most goodlooking to the most otherwise, and everything in between. Also I agree with Terra, behavior is most of it, but it does feed into the look as well. "Plain" is a lifestyle choice and mentality that affects the physical to a degree. Not always the case, but many times.
     
  15. La_Donna
    Offline

    La_Donna Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    3
    I only said "brown" hair because I swear every "Plain Jane" ever written has the phrase "mousy brown hair" associated with them!!!
     
  16. sanco
    Offline

    sanco Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2013
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    17
    Bella from Twilight.
     
  17. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    Bella is what I would consider "hollywood homely". Someone who is supposed to be butt ugly but after a simple makeover or wardrobe transformation the audience or reader comes to realize they were beautiful all along. So I don't think she really qualifies.
     
  18. Shadywood
    Offline

    Shadywood Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2013
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Victoria, Canada
    I would say that a plain person is neither attractive nor unattractive, simply forgettable. Appearance is, of course, subjective, but ignoring that...plain is, to me, simple. Little or no makeup for a woman, one-length hair, no features that make you look for longer than a moment (such as beauty mark, freckles, vivid eyes, huge nose). Height and weight wouldn't really factor in for me except to say that extremes should be avoided. A plain person is one who is difficult to describe because there is nothing memorable about him/her.
     
  19. sanco
    Offline

    sanco Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2013
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    17
    I know what you mean. The 'ugly girl' takes off her glasses and becomes the prom queen. I think I was referring to the plainness of Bella's character and may have confused 'plain jane' for flat character.

    OP, I would suggest you find out the averages in certain statistics -- height, for example -- and attribute these physical characteristics to your character.
     
  20. karminrose
    Offline

    karminrose New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2013
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    The whole physical part is kind of harder to answer because while I have seen some really plain brunettes I've also seen gorgeous brunettes as well same goes for red heads so the whole hair color thing dosent do it anymore like in the past a plain Jane would be someone with brown hair usually in a pony tale who has glasses but that's so overdone and just not true i think it's more in the attitude that makes someone plain and not really someone who sticks out.
     
  21. Gallowglass
    Offline

    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Messages:
    1,617
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Loch na Seilg, Alba
    There's no definitive list for this. Everyone likes different things. One person's 2 might be another person's 10. Seriously, I've seen it happen.
     
  22. slamdunk
    Offline

    slamdunk Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2013
    Messages:
    66
    Likes Received:
    8
    They dress "normal" (what is normal depends on the setting, but they don't have the nicest clothes nor ugly clothes, they dress to blend in).
    Everything is somewhat normal about them, they are not super happy, nor super angry and even if they feel angry you can hardly tell cus they are so plain.
    They are not super tall or super short, around average and does nothing that catch your attention (such as smile, jump like a mad person etc).
    As for muscles and face etc they are "around average" possible a little on the weaker side (people would probably rate their look a 3-4 and not a 5 out of 10).
     

Share This Page