1. katina

    katina Senior Member

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    characters physical appearance

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by katina, Mar 15, 2019 at 12:10 AM.

    How much or little does it hold as far as your characters are concerned?
    Does the way they look play a role in the way the story unfold?
     
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  2. Fallow

    Fallow Member

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    It can matter if the character is attractive or not, scary, eye catching, bland, etc. But it almost never matters that they have blonde hair and a thin nose.


    And I think a fair argument can be made that leaving out signifiers of race is not such a terrible thing for a writer to do. It makes the character match the empathies of the reader more easily, staves off certain criticisms and opens the possibilities for adaptation.
     
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  3. XRD_author

    XRD_author Member Supporter

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    Appearance matters a lot when, as a result of your mother's secret and highly illegal genetic engineering experiments, you're the first and only woman born with wings, and trying to prevent people from finding that out ... and the wings don't magically disappear when they're inconvenient -- this isn't a fantasy story.

    (Oh, and sexy as Hell in a Marilyn-Monroe-as-painted-by-Rubens kind of way. For ... reasons.)

    Other than that, generally, my character's appearances are shaped by their personalities, experience, and genetics, and therefore their appearances often say something about who they are. For example: "Kat was a petite woman, with a delightfully pretty face and the finest figure money could buy. Her dress was as revealing as the current mode allowed, and showed her off to advantage." Of course, that description says something about the POV character, too.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019 at 2:15 AM
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  4. ThunderAngel

    ThunderAngel Senior Member

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    In the series that I’m writing, some character appearances are very important while others are less so. Because of his physiological anomalies, my current MC would be quite confusing if one were not given a somewhat accurate impression of his appearance.
     
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  5. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    I want the reader to identify with the character ant therefore I like to leave the description open. State only what is necessary to the plot and leave the rest blank
     
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  6. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I think it matters to the reader as much as it matters to the characters. In John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men", other the fact that Larry was skinny and George was huge, I can't even really picture them. What mattered to the characters is their ability to work and interact with the mix of other people. On the flip side, in Stephen King's It, it mattered that Ben was a fat short kid with a dorky haircut and that Henry Bowers had greased black hair and wore a leather jacket.
     
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  7. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    How the appearance affects the character's life and development is important. The overweight kid who was always bullied, so when he grew up, he became a fitness nut, and a bully himself.

    In E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, a particular genetic strain of humans with red hair and gold-flecked tawny eyes had a significant destiny.

    These are story-bound characteristics. What their fashion sense is, whether they bob their hair or shave their heads to a close stubble, is generally more decoration than helpful. Worse yet, it can date your story. Read some 1950s science fiction, and try not to chuckle too much at their notion of future style.

    The reader's imagination is a wonderful tool. So what if the reader's mental image of a character is very different from the author's? Unless it's a characteristic the affects the story, let it go.
     
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  8. XRD_author

    XRD_author Member Supporter

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    Hmm, this reminds me: a significant plot point in my WIP revolves on a characters appearance.

    The character is a man who has been fit and well-groomed most of his life: think Marine Corps DI.
    Then things go badly for him, and he stops taking care of himself: gets obese, stops shaving.

    But the MC desperately needs to find this man, and has only a drawing to guide her.
    A drawing made by someone who's never seen the man overweight and bearded.

    The MC doesn't find him, and nearly dies as a consequence.

    The incident is based on my own personal experience, so I know it could happen.
     
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  9. Zombie Among Us

    Zombie Among Us Member

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    I have drawn my characters, but I'm not too worried if a reader doesn't imagine them exactly how I do. Most of their physical qualities don't mean too much. An example of appearance meaning something in my WIP is that one character is very muscular and he's the typical "all brawn no brains" kind of dude. I mean, I mention the POV has blue glasses a few times and the glasses are my "trademark," but the way I see it is a picture is worth a thousand words and a word is worth a thousand pictures.
     
  10. DPena

    DPena Member

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    I established that my female character was thin and relatively attractive, and that another character was a fat slob, but most of that was viewed through the eyes of others in conversation, internal thoughts, etc.

    i.e. not "the man was a fat slob, dribbling food down the front of his shirt as he shoveled into his gaping maw." but more like "Look at that fat piece of ****," said Joe. "He can't even get the food into his mouth without getting it all over his shirt."

    Other than that, I don't focus too much on appearances after the initial description of someone. Mainly because I can't remember stupid small details later on in the story, and all of a sudden his scar is on his left cheek instead of his right, her eyes magically changed from brown to blue, etc.

    EDIT: Also, as someone said above, the reader is going to form their own vision of what your character looks like anyway, despite our best, most detailed descriptions. It's best just to leave it vague enough that they can find a character in their mind that they can relate to.

    For example, there was a big hoopla a while back over Hermione's ethnicity in Harry Potter. Rowling never really says whether she's white or not, and her description of Hermione is pretty vague. That led to a big argument over whether Hermione was supposed to be black in the movies. (and Dumbledore gay, for that matter) To Rowling's credit, she basically gave a shrug and said "what do you think?" and left it at that.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019 at 3:40 PM
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