1. beehoney

    beehoney Member

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    how can I describe the skin tone of my character?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by beehoney, Nov 6, 2017.

    Hi Writing-Community,


    You find worldwide a lot of different skin colors. It exists more than black or white. Today there is no place with one skin tone. In big cities, you see black, white, or even gold beige.

    So, when I write my character meet a new guy or girl—I describe his/her look too. It’s more than obvious to describe his/her skin tone too. But I didn’t find a good chart. I found charts which are with simple names or with “Pantone” (whatever this thing is.).

    So, could you help me please to describe skin tone than “Pantone 61-6 C”?


    beehoney
     
  2. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    Pinkish? It's really not something you need to elaborate on. We all know what skin looks like.

    Writing With Color has a pretty cool guide here, though.
     
  3. beehoney

    beehoney Member

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    @izzybot I know this site but I didn't understand this. How should wood describe a skin tone? Ok, Metal. Cooper is similar to a dark brown skin. May when the character lives in India. But wood. Could you please explain this crazy ideas.
     
  4. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    Well ... it's just a reference to a relatively well-known shade. Like:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This woman's skintone is similar to what's labelled Red Oak up above. It's just a comparison. I'm sorry, I don't really get what you don't understand :confused:
     
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  5. beehoney

    beehoney Member

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    @izzybot I don't understand it because you don't say in real life "My skin tone is like Red Oak."
     
  6. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    No, but you don't tend to describe yourself at all in real life. Even if I were to, say, describe myself to an internet friend who hadn't seen me, I would probably just say I was pale, not get into the details of my skin tone - I just don't get a lot of sun :p In writing, if you want to describe someone, you're almost never going to be using words they would use to do it - you're using your own words, from an objective standpoint, or the words of a subjective in-universe narrator. In writing you could romanticize my skin as looking like porcelain, but in real life I'm just gonna say pale - there doesn't have to be extreme consistency between the two. Does that make sense?
     
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  7. beehoney

    beehoney Member

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    @izzybot When I have a character who isn't cocky but rather cool and relaxed would just say according to which skin color he/she has "white" or "black". Or may "light" or "dark". So, how should I describe skin tone?
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    How DO you get a link in here without it doing the embed thing? Well, slap an http in front of the below; it's a useful page, IMO.

    writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/post/96830966357/writing-with-color-description-guide-words-for
     
  9. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    What's wrong with just describing it as 'light' or 'dark' ...?
     
  10. beehoney

    beehoney Member

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    @izzybot I think it's not detailed enough.
     
  11. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Here ;) Contributor

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    You don't always have to be super detailed. In my opinion it's fine to just say their skin was "light" or "dark", and save the more elaborate detail for more important aspects of their character.
     
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  12. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    Well, I'm not sure what to tell you. I got better at understanding and describing skin tones in more detail by reading WWC's guide and just paying more attention to people's skin tones. But it was WWC that gave me to vocabulary to describe them, so I dunno. Something that really helped things click for me was the distinction between 'warm' and 'cool' tones - maybe you could do some googling on that front and get somewhere? Maybe try beauty tip type blogs?

    eta: And, yeah, I'd reiterate that it's probably not as important as you think it is. Most readers are going to glaze over detailed descriptions anyway.
     
  13. beehoney

    beehoney Member

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    @8Bit Bob I think to be underdetailed is a problem because the standard reader think—when you say it's "light" or "dark"—they are "white" or "black".
     
  14. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    Light brown or dark brown, then?
     
  15. beehoney

    beehoney Member

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    @izzybot Then. But I talked about when you write just "dark" or "light".
     
  16. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    I rarely mention skin color, and instead let other things like their heritage, eye color, hair color, etc. answer those questions. Then, when I do mention skin color (if I do) the reader already has an image in their mind. Seriously though, it's really not a big deal.
     
  17. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    Sure, so you specify 'brown' - which is different from 'white' or 'black' - and modify it as needed with light/dark/warm/cool/etc.
     
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  18. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    If you're going to mention skin color, or anything pertaining to a character's appearance there should be something more to it. Otherwise, you're just writing fluffy details that don't really matter.

    Rosemarie had a quick thought, a black man is good luck, which it must be, like black cats in the theatre.
     
  19. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    -
    Her moonlight skin made her hair look like fire and her eyes glow like Biševo.
    -

    Not only have I described the skin tone -in relation to other features- but I've revealed a bit about the speaker as well in this sentence (Notice how the speaker compares physical features to natural-light-producing phenomenon?)

    Your descriptions need to reveal something about the speaker; even if the speaker is a 3rd person-unseen-narrator.
     
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  20. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    When forced, I generally describe myself as a ruddy shade of honkey, though this usually only happens in art classes or writing workshops. Unless there's a specific plot reason you need to establish their exact skin tone, then a passing reference to ethnicity (Caucasian skin tone) or general shade (his skin was a touch more pink than average) is probably enough. Overly describing these things without it paying off can kill story flow and confuse readers. Saying someone had a red skin tone, blushed easily and was self conscious about it is character development, but still isn't really overly described.
     
  21. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    I know I'm in the minority here, but I find writing devoid of description utterly boring. It's frankly why I can't stand Hemingway. I remember being so excited to finally read something by this man who had such a colorful life and thinking, "That's it?" Give me Colleen McCullough's lush descriptions any day.

    One could say black, white, or tan, but words and phrases like ebony, pale ivory, and caramel are so much more interesting.
     
  22. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think rather than focusing on digging up a word to describe every nuance of colour, ask yourself why you're describing it at all. In other words, why is the colour either noticeable or important? If you focus on the 'why' rather than the 'what,' you'll be developing the story as well as describing something. If it's a character noticing another character, what is this character thinking? When you notice somebody, you don't usually spend a lot of time dwelling on a name for the colour of their skin. Do you?
     
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  23. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I like to have a reason to add specific details for my characters either a. for beauty's sake or b. for story's sake. In my WIP I actually did mention the whiteness of the MC's skin color because it is used several times -- for humor's sake -- he is dismissed as an especially white annoying boy. And says so much for white privilege when he's called a maggot at school (He's very pale.) And then for beauty's sake -- he becomes a celebrity and grows into his looks and his paleness becomes iconic.

    Maybe think about how you can work your skin description in for your character. Sometimes if you're handling a different race there's an urge to mention their skin color -- but when I did a black mc for a short story I did the opposite and mentioned the first minority in his group a white man. That sets the tone that the white man is different. Also keep the descriptions with the tone of the character and book -- there's nothing wrong with being annoyed with your own skin or pleased with it. But just be careful that the mc (unless they're deliberately arrogant) aren't describing themselves in third person terms -- long flowing locks, alabaster skin, in first person terms. It just sounds bizarre.
     
  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Admin Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    How detailed you need to be depends on the context and why you are describing him/her ... if your male mc describes the femal mc as being like a golden elf spun from sunshine its likely he finds her attractive (it's also likely that hes a nauseating adolescent) likewise if you wax lyrical about someones skin being like polished mahogany then the chances are you are thinking of them in a romantic light.

    A straight man describing his mate who happens to be black is much more likely to say "Del ? , yeah hes a big black guy"
     
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  25. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Well for me most of the time it is an alien describing another alien (including humans).
    Or humans describing aliens. While it may not always be an exact color addressed, the
    reader gets a sense of that they look like.

    That being said. The color tone you are asking about would be considered a mellow
    sand. Or a light beige. Calling someone pink, would be a little insulting. Unless they
    happen to come from a species that is pink, or they happen to not have any skin over
    non-blood covered muscle tissue. So I would go with a soft beach sand, or a light shade
    of beige. Looking at wood colors is another option, or at paint swatches can be helpful.
    In colored pencils they would call it 'flesh' colored, but it is also closer to 'sand' as well.
    Of course don't spend too much on how a random person looks, usually their name
    will give you some idea of what they look like. It all really depends on how important
    this random person is to your MC or the story line. Since you seem to be using only
    humans, I think you save yourself a bit of trouble as most have seen pretty much what
    every skin type looks like by this point in their life, due to television and the advent of
    this wonderful thing called the internet.

    Ultimately it in my honest opinion, giving just enough information to the reader is
    always much more pleasant to them, as they can imagine how things/people look
    without being forced to see exactly what the author does. Since you don't have the
    advantage of showing them in a visual format. Possibly why putting people on the
    covers of books, takes some of the fun of trying to imagine them as they are written
    in the story. Mainly due to the fact that it restricts the reader, because they have
    a visual representation of what exactly they will look like. Not taking a jab, just an
    observation, but in Romance and Erotica they for the most part are guilty of showing
    characters on their covers, which takes away the wonder of those characters for the
    reader.

    My apologies for rambling on so long, guess I just had a bit to say. :)
     

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