1. carsun1000
    Offline

    carsun1000 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2011
    Messages:
    158
    Likes Received:
    31

    Your thoughts on this character description.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by carsun1000, Jun 2, 2015.

    This is a character in my WIP and wanted to know if this description of her (physically) will work.


    The first time she saw her naked, Michelle thought she looked just like Noomi Rapace, the actress in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Same body type, same height, same short hairstyle, except that her friend with benefit had no dragon tattoo on her back, and looked prettier than Noomi in that role or in any role for that matter. Christina's toned muscles and flat stomach had since been Michelle’s weakness whenever they got together.


    Your thoughts? I mean even if the reader does not know who Noomi Rapace is, is the description good enough to capture this character's physical attributes?
    Thanks.
     
  2. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,504
    Likes Received:
    1,338
    I didn't know who Noomi Rapace was. OK, I've tried watching TGWTDT, so I know and can envisage who you mean, but your description spends an awfully long time product-placing the film rather than describing the character. If this was a timeless classic, it might - just - work, but for me it's describing somebody I don't know by comparison with somebody I don't know.

    The only things that aren't related to Noomi Rapace are "her toned muscles, flat stomach and the absence of a dragon tattoo on her back".

    All her other characteristics are comparative. And you're so specific about the absence of a dragon tattoo that I'm seeing her face covered in swirling tribal patterns, with a relief map of Peru down her inner thigh.
     
    Nicoel, Inkwell1, Ussaid and 2 others like this.
  3. carsun1000
    Offline

    carsun1000 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2011
    Messages:
    158
    Likes Received:
    31
    Thanks@Shadowfax, now that you know where I'm headed, how do you think I can convince you (or readers) of this character without comparing her with someone you don't know.
    Also could it be that your somewhat dislike for the movie could be a bias in accepting the character's description?
     
  4. BookLover
    Offline

    BookLover Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2014
    Messages:
    291
    Likes Received:
    186
    I have not seen the movie but read the book, so in my mind she looked like how I envisioned the girl in the book. Small, punk-ish.

    I just googled the actress you mentioned and that is not what I was seeing. At all.

    Instead of saying she has the same body type, height, and hair of someone I don't know, tell me about her body type, height, and hair in an interesting way.
     
    Frankovitch likes this.
  5. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    If I don't know who Rapace is (which I honestly don't, never seen her pic even), how should I know if the description captures your character if all you've told me is: "She looks like Noomi Rapace"? Seems a silly question. Or to reverse it, it's like this:

    My character Will looks just like my husband Jan. Will has the same body type, same height, and even the same kind of eyes as Jan.

    Do you know what Will looks like now?

    Of course not. You have no idea what my husband looks like!

    Anyway, in short - unless there's a very good reason for describing your character as you have, I'd just come out and actually describe her. Comparison to celebs can sometimes work, but not when the comparison is the only sort of detail we're getting for the character. Right now your description reads a little lazy to me, like you can't be bothered to really describe her.

    If Rapace is the perfect reflection of your character, then I'd highlight which attributes are similar, for example...

    "It's like staring at Angelina Jolie - the full lips, the tilted eyes a cold winter grey brought out to shine against the dark of her hair, and more than all that, the mesmorising power she seems to wear like a shawl on her shoulders, the hem of something elusive yet captivating wrapped casually around her fingers as she lifts them to cover her smiling lips."​

    ^truth be told, I don't even think "Angelina Jolie" is necessary in the description I wrote. However I did write all that based on what I thought I saw/felt when I looked at her photo.

    I guess my question would ultimately be: is it even necessary to mention Noomi Rapace?
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015
    Nicoel, BookLover, peachalulu and 2 others like this.
  6. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,504
    Likes Received:
    1,338
    I didn't dislike the film, my wife couldn't get into it...

    What do we need to know about her?

    What you HAVE told us, her toned muscles and flat stomach, are OK - is this because she's a fitness freak, or just lucky? - I'm seeing her as having short dark (guess - somehow blonde hair always seems to be long) hair. I'm seeing her as not tattooed as a default. The good physique tends to say youngish, but the shortish hair is a bit uni-age - perhaps more common in an older woman, or in a woman making a definite fashion statement, or in a woman who favours practicality. So, Doctor Watson, does this sound like what you intended?

    You want her to be pretty...what kind? Cheeky little elf seems to fit the short hair. How are her eyes? Laughing? Sad? Fierce?

    I think that what you want is a couple of points that tell us ALL about her. Is it her athletic body? Is it her laughing, dancing eyes? Is it her voice of golden brown? Leave the rest to our imagination. As Booklover says, the film got her wrong!
     
    carsun1000 likes this.
  7. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,824
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Everyone's given good advice here. I'll stick in my two cents. :) For me the only reason to bring up Noomi Rapace and that role is to have the readers make more than a physical connection to it. You wouldn't compare a business man to Sid Vicious just for looks - you'd find someone else short and skinny to compare him to - unless he was the kind of business man that did punk things. Then the comparison might make sense.
    If your character is punkish - it might make sense to make that comparison - but as worded the key things that make Noomi distinct aren't really mentioned. So why is the character making the connection? She likes Noomi, she likes the character Noomi played, something about the character brings the comparison to mind?

    Plus, by mentioning a star ( this might not be an issue to you ) but it puts a date on your story. Not a bad thing but if you want to avoid it you can just give a general idea of Noomi - without the direct name. ( She resembled that Girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo actress sans tattoo. )
     
    Mckk and carsun1000 like this.
  8. carsun1000
    Offline

    carsun1000 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2011
    Messages:
    158
    Likes Received:
    31
    Thanks.
    My character is actually forty. she has short dark hair, a petite frame (thanks to genes). She portrays herself as a tough girl who wears cargo pants and T-shirts. She takes no b.s from no one and is eccentric in behavior. Her girlfriend (bed mate) is forty-eight and complete opposite of her (tall, blond, fit but not overly toned, happy with her socio-economic status, docile and smiles)
    Every time I've tried to describe my character and her attribute, I had Noomi in mind and that's why now i feel stuck with describing her.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015
  9. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,841
    Likes Received:
    10,017
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    With or without the reference to Noomi Rapace, and with or without the mention of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the description your give (sans refs) should stand on its own. I'm with @peachalulu as far as automatically stamping a date mark on the story by making these references, though. Also, the references may link to "empty files" for many people. I have no idea who Noomi Rapace from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is, but I totally know who Noomi Rapace, the self-cesarian giving French chick from Prometheus is. The first links to an empty folder in my mind; the second links to a folder filled with images.
     
    carsun1000 likes this.
  10. Phil Partington
    Offline

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    A couple things to consider here. First, while TGwtDT is a fairly popular show, I'm not sure the masses all know the actress by her body type. I'm also not sure folks are going to get this reference 5-10 years from now, so there's that.

    Writing wise, you make the comparison work while keeping the narrative voice. That said, I kind of felt like it was a little overdone, but that could just be me--as in, make the reference then move on to the action/character's interaction with the world. That's where the real characterization pops, IMO.
     
    carsun1000 likes this.
  11. Frankovitch
    Offline

    Frankovitch Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    30
    I think you have to use comparisons to famous people very sparingly. Obviously, you have to be aware that not all people will know the person you're comparing you character with. Also, just saying that they're alike is too flat. I'd rather use a comparison for some specific trait. I hope people are with me when I say that a description like "a Jack Nicholson smile" is very different from "a Michael Caine smile" or "a Jim Carrey smile". But again, use at your own discretion, as people might easily come to think of your whole character as the one they share a trait or two with.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,965
    Likes Received:
    5,487
    From looking at photos of the actress:

    The first time she saw her naked, Michelle was struck by the contrast between Christina's lean, toned, action-hero body and her wide-eyed Victorian-urchin face. The body would be irresistible to anyone, but it was the face, half-sheltered behind dark rumples of hair, that haunted Michelle. Michelle had always hated the word "sweet" as a description. So sentimental, so cheesy. But looking at Christina's face, it was as if the word had been redefined.

    Edited to add: OK, that's not really "thoughts" without, well, thoughts. I added "action-hero" and "Victorian-urchin" as a theoretical demonstration of using common cultural references without getting so specific as to date the description, or exclude a large percentage of the readers. And I added a few more things that don't depend on the cultural references.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015
    Shadowfax, carsun1000 and Mckk like this.
  13. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    Interestingly, I was going to say the exact same thing.
     
  14. AlannaHart
    Offline

    AlannaHart Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2014
    Messages:
    367
    Likes Received:
    201
    Location:
    Australia
    I consider comparison to famous people as lazy writing. If someone paints a vivid picture of their character and I connect that in my mind to a celebrity, so be it, but if they push a celebrity in my face and say 'Heard of this person? That's what my character looks like. There, that's half my description done,' I get irritated. I don't care if they look like Megan Fox, I want a creative, original description, please. That's why I'm reading your book and not watching some rubbish like Transformers. Books are for using imagination, not having fully established images forced on you. Where's the fun in being told exactly what to envision?
    In my opinion, if they look like a celebrity, keep it to yourself and try to paint a picture of that celebrity without name dropping. Most of your readers will envision someone completely different anyway, because everyone associates different traits with different people and everyone has their own imagination. But that's what reading is about.
     
  15. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    861
    Likes Received:
    949
    Location:
    SC, USA
    Yeah, definitely avoid comparisons to actors and such - even knowing the actress you're referencing and what she looks like, now I'm not thinking about your character at all, just Noomi Rapace and an entirely different work from yours. If you're stuck just picturing Noomi Rapace try actually describing her, rather than bringing up the ways in which Christina looks like her. Instead of "same body type, same height, same short hairstyle" say what those attributes are, you know, what body type, what height, what kind of hairstyle. Maybe say Michelle thinks she looks like Noomi Rapace and that Michelle sees this as plus, but don't rely on everyone knowing who she is, what she looks like in a specific movie, and also finding her attractive (assuming that's what you're going for anyway).
     
    Mckk likes this.
  16. Phil Partington
    Offline

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    Eh, I won't go so far as to say NEVER compare your character to actors. I mean, if you're trying to place him/her into a particular time period or setting, it can be a very effective way of doing it. Not knowing the context of this piece, it's hard to ascertain if this is the intent. However, I'll admit it's hard for me to imagine that using Noomi Rapace is an effective means of placing this character in any notable setting. She just isn't recognizable enough.
     
  17. Vrisnem
    Offline

    Vrisnem Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2015
    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Scotland
    As someone who doesn't know of the actress I've come to the end of that paragraph not really knowing anything about your character except her name and that she has a flat stomach.

    You asked if a person didn't know of the actress would it still be a good description - I'd say it's too weak. Even if I knew of the actress I would still disagree with it being a good piece of writing and I think that you should definitely follow the advice given above. Referencing someone else just seems to be a shortcut out of doing the work to describe your character - you need to make the effort to describe the character yourself in a way that can be universally understood.

    I actually learned far more about how your character looks from this post (below) than I did from your original post. You should try working elements from this into your character description.

    It's okay to imagine a particular actress in the role of one of your characters, but you can't expect everyone to know of them. Most of us aren't going to go and say look up a picture of the actress to understand the reference - the majority would just ignore it and keep reading on. I know I would.
     
    carsun1000 likes this.
  18. DeathandGrim
    Offline

    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2012
    Messages:
    540
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Virginia Beach
    It'd probably work for someone who's seen that movie otherwise it's probably up to imagination or google. Because I certainly couldn't get it. But I did envision the type of woman I'd like to see with a dragon tattoo ;)
     
    carsun1000 likes this.
  19. No-Name Slob
    Offline

    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    1,232
    Likes Received:
    925
    Location:
    Dallas, Texas
    I think this kind of comparison only works with classic actors who everyone knows. "The elegance of Grace Kelly," for example, would work.

    Another thing to consider is that there are two versions of this movie, an American version and a Swedish version, with two different actors playing that role. Neither of the actors are very well known, so you might be giving a completely inaccurate description to people who have only seen the American version, and assume Noomi Rapace is the girl who plays Lisbeth in that version. I've seen both versions, and I still pictured Rooney Mara, who doesn't look much like Noomi Rapace.
     
  20. No-Name Slob
    Offline

    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    1,232
    Likes Received:
    925
    Location:
    Dallas, Texas
    I understand lot more about her from that, than your original text.

    So she's petite, yet strangely statuesque? Her frame takes up minimal physical space, and yet she draws you in, so everything else in the room blurs into the walls?

    Forget about the other character and think about how personality can affect someone's looks. How can something so small seem so big? How does the absence of her usual baggy attire accentuate the naked body standing before Michelle?
     
    carsun1000 likes this.
  21. carsun1000
    Offline

    carsun1000 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2011
    Messages:
    158
    Likes Received:
    31
    Thanks for all the inputs and recommendations. I learned quite a few things with this post, and hopefully some others did as well. My other finished work had a setting where Lady Gaga's Paparazzi was playing in the background. After all comments here, I will go back and change it so I don't put a time stamp on my work. Thanks again.
     
  22. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,564
    Likes Received:
    3,561
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Noomi Rapace is a tad obscure, however, in one action novel that I recently read, a British intelligence officer was described as having floppy hair à la Hugh Grant, and that worked for me (the POV character thought so about the guy). So I don't think it's a huge no-no to use a "time stamp" when the person is iconic enough. It's just that I don't think Rapace is iconic enough. Although, Lisbeth Salander as a character might be... But I'm not sure I'd use even her to describe another character.
     

Share This Page