1. Abraham First

    Abraham First Member

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    Various human face anatomy. ???

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Abraham First, Jan 19, 2017.

    I can't describe human face in a very detailed description. I realize it's a weakness because to make a good character you might have to have a detailed physical description or even traits so that readers can clearly imagine them on their head.

    That's why I am having a hard time when people ask me "What does she looks like?"
    I just answer "well, she is beautiful, her eyes are blue and round, she has a small sexy lips"
    That's it.

    If those were to be a character only description it would be obviously lacking and common.

    Advises, please.
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Because such a description is too focused on simple attributes. She's not a video game character. You're not picking through an assortment of eye, ear, nose, lip, hair options.

    Who is looking at her? When we look at someone, we don't categorize them this way. We are attracted (or not attracted) to the person in a more instinctual, gut level.
     
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  3. Asphyxiates

    Asphyxiates New Member

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    Why would you even need that much detail? A better description would be how people feel around her, what they are thinking.
     
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  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    "vulpine", meaning fox-like, is always a good face word... actually, that's a good word to use anywhere...
     
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  5. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    This, I think, is untrue. Detailed facial descriptions are not only unnecessary but, to me, can be a mark of a novice writer. We have a general idea what a face looks like. We've seen thousands of them. I don't need to know the parts that are average, common.

    My advice is to choose one or two original details and use those to add to characterization. If someone has a big scar on their face or pockmarks from severe acne, those things impact a personality. find details like those, and the reader will fill in the rest of the information.

    In terms of character description, I'm solidly in the "less is more" camp.
     
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  6. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I agree, unless the character has something that makes them distinctive like a cleft chin or prominent cheekbones, their facial anatomy I don't think is terribly important. There are obvious reasons to go into detail about specific characters (usually a character self-critiquing themselves.)

    For more specifics, I'm remind of how to draw a human face. People often ask me how to do it and the way I do it is often surprising to them. I tell them they have to draw the face in parts and must therefore understand anatomy of how the face all works together. Ask yourself, what are the different parts of the face? and I don't mean the obvious like eyes, nose, mouth... I mean details. The eyes sink and can have many different shapes, usually caused by race. The nose has five main parts: the bridge, the bump, the lobes, and the nostrils, differences are also usually caused by race. The lips have five parts as well: three on top and two on the bottom. I don't think all of that detail is relevant to you.

    I wouldn't shy from racial stereotypes. From your small description, I imagine a woman of German or Russian descent. Racial stereotypes come from legitimate physiological differences. I wouldn't be able to put into words very well the differences between an Italian and an Englishmen, but I can certainly picture the differences.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2017
  7. Abraham First

    Abraham First Member

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    Sorry, I didn't know this thread is supposed to be here. I was researching though. Haha

    Yes. I was researching something like this but more in specific ways. Like how's the nose, eyes shape, cheekbones, forehead, and other features. I once chatted with a make-up artist and I was amazed when she described faces of her past clients she had worked for. The images in my head were well-constructed thanks to her detailed description. Thats the experience I want to give to readers who would read my stories.

    Maybe you guys are right, but isn't it better to have describe every character clearly. Like what if the heroine had older and younger sister. Should I just write 'both of them were equally beautiful as her' ? Wouldn't my readers mistakenly thinks that the sisters are look alike (even though they don't actually look much alike) or worst has the same faces?

    Isn't that subjective? Then how the case with third-person objective POV? I had wrote two short stories and let my friend read them both for feedback. Then he asked me what were the heroines (from different story) faces actually look likes if they're drawn. I only wrote subjective descriptions like " . . she had an eyes that could makes me bla bla bla" or "her smiles really drowned me away to bla bla bla". My friend noted that those kind of descriptions could project different faces in each of every different reader, as they were all subjective.

    His (my friend) finishing blow was " weren't you in charge of your story? You shouldn't let other people decides what is YOUR character looks like. Put more efforts into it." I was taken aback at that, but he was older and actually my senior at eng-lit, so took it as constructive criticisms rather than an offences.

    Therefore, I made this thread.
     
  8. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Hmm. Well you want to know what makes your character unique. My drawing might help with that because while each face is different, the majority of the components are generic. I'd start with those generics: the shape of the face and the colors, like you did telling us her eyes are blue. What shape is her face? Long, round, pudgy?

    The eyes contain most of the soul of the person in a painting and in life. What are they like? Bright and young? Lopsided in one direction? (Most humans are.) are they deep and sunken or pushed out. The skin around the eyes also gives away health. Is her skin flawless and soft, wrinkled from caffeinated nights? Do they contract with her eyebrows or are those thin?

    The nose I find fairly generic among race. Jews have one type of nose, Italians have another, African Americans have another... there is some variation but not really enough to notice, unless there is something interesting about it: crooked? Pointy?

    The mouth is a complicated thing. You described small, how? Thin lips or simply small orafice? It's easy to notice how someone's upper or lower lip is bigger than the other, or the particular shade and how it changes from place to place. Lips often have unique wrinkles and are always uneven. White teeth, yellowed, slightly stained? Slightly crooked teeth is usually pretty cute. We notice a lot about the mouth because we tend to watch people talk.

    The cheeks can tell a lot about a character. Lots of frowning vs lots of smiling causes the muscle to tone differently and it's easy to see. Higher check muscles look happier and low sunked ones make a painting look sad or aged.

    Then the small details stand out. Most humans have marks on their face: moles, skin tags, freckles, sunken spots. You're probably aware of them on yourself and notice them less on other people, but everyone has them. Describe where they are and what they're like.
     
  9. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think if you're trying to have complete control over your story, you're going to drive yourself crazy, and drive your readers away. Readers want some level of involvement in the story--reading is an active thing, not passive. So, no, I don't think your friend is on the right track with his idea that you need to be in charge of your story.

    Look at some of your favourite books and see how the authors handle character description. Some of them are probably really detailed, but others almost certainly aren't.

    If you want to give really detailed descriptions for your own reasons, that's your business. But if you're doing it because your friend is pressuring you into it? Ignore him. Write the way you want to write.
     
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  10. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    ^ This right here is SO important I can't even stress it enough.

    ^This also is SO important. You have two guys look at the same girl, chances are they are going to notice different things about the girl. What people notice about other people not only reveals details about object/person etc. It also reveals details about the speaker (as in what he finds or doesn't find attractive.)
     
  11. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    No it's not. I know what beautiful women look like. Just give me the broad strokes and my imagination will fill in the rest. That's why I read books. To exercise my imagination. Sorry if I sound blunt, but screwing around with my imagination is like screwing around with my wife.
     
  12. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Barf. That's why I don't like prose and prefer working in a visual medium http://s55.photobucket.com/user/Ayali_album/media/DSC00727.jpg.html

    I always hated the idea of people imagining my characters wrong and making up lame choreography for their fights. But with prose you have to put up with it for the sake of not killing the pacing.
     
  13. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    I think this of a case where less is more. Unless they happen to be some creature we have never seen
    before, then a few details will come in handy. So that being said try to give your reader something
    to imagine, not force or spoon feed them.

    I like to pretend what characters will look like, as opposed to being told exactly how they look.
    If I wanted to be lazy, I could watch a show/movie and have the characters appearance dictated
    to me in a visual format.
     
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  14. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    Maybe beauty isn't the only way to describe someone.

    Here's the thing: there's a midground between describing characters in nothing but metaphor and going into extensive detail about how many centimeters apart their eyes are. I fall into this too, because I'm a big fan of visual art, a very visual person myself, and I instinctively want my characters to be visually distinct to the reader. But writing isn't a visual medium and trying to micromanage your reader's mental images is just going to bog things down. Like someone else suggested, try going back and reading something that you remember vividly and see how much of both broad strokes and the detail is actually included - chances are the writer in question either did nothing but broad strokes ("it was a regal building supported by marble columns") or details ("she had a scar over her lip and a smirk on her face") and your imagination filled in the rest. There's nothing wrong with that.

    There's nothing wrong with subjective descriptions, either. Unless you're writing in a true omniscient third, your reader is still experiencing the world from the POV character's eyes. Think of them as the camera. What they linger on, the reader lingers on. This offers you the chance to characterize the POV character with things like descriptions by showing what they pay attention to. I have a POV character with a ridiculous crush on this other character, describing him as non-descriptively beautiful and dwelling on his lips, his fingers, his eyes - the things about him that he finds so attractive. It's completely one-sided and shallow because the POV character doesn't actually know anything about the object of his affections apart from what he looks like. Once they actually begin spending time with each other, the POV character begins to actually describe him as a person; turns out he has scars, he has weird mannerisms, he has bad posture and worse habits. Through these descriptions I've (hopefully) managed to illustrate the transition from pretty stranger to fully-realized fellow human being without just stating "And slowly, he began to see [other character] as a person".

    That's another thing about 'objective' descriptions: they're telling (as opposed to showing). They're extremely telling. And telling isn't inherently bad, don't get me wrong, but if every character's description is just communicated as "She was a beautiful woman, and her sisters were also beautiful" - it doesn't tell me anything about them. In my opinion? "She had eyes I could drown in" etc isn't any better. I don't really find it that different. It's still just saying that she's beautiful, without saying in what way, or how, and I don't buy it as a reader because there is no 'objective' beauty. Attractiveness is always subjective. Does it matter if your reader thinks she's beautiful? Surely it only matters to your characters?

    Like I said, I'm a visual person, and it matters to me what - in detail - my characters look like. I make design sheets for them and obsess over continuity errors - "But earlier I said that scar was on his ring finger, and this wording makes it vague over which finger it's on! Oh no! I have to fix this!" while simultaneously going "Izzy, dude ... no one cares". You have to teach yourself that no one cares about the minutiae as much as you do. He just has a scar on his finger. Her eyes are a somewhat rare shade of blue. What really matters is how these features affect characterization. That's what people are reading for - not to be told how pretty someone is.

    Also, just because someone is older than you doesn't mean their word is gold. We're all figuring shit out and none of us have it completely locked down. It's more important to work it out for yourself than let yourself get into the habit of deferring to others' opinions without being skeptical. You are in charge of your story; no one else is. That includes people posting on this forum. Everything should be taken with a grain of salt.
     
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  15. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    I too, agree that less is more. Even in real life, two people can perceive one same person in different ways.
     
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  16. Abraham First

    Abraham First Member

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    Yes. That's what I am talking about. I wished I could draw so I would put my characters on the cover page. That way, at least, my readers would have the faces of my characters right on their mind before reading the first chapter.

    Actually I was worried that I am a bad writer if I don't flesh out my characters with very clear pictures. But seeing everyone says that it's okay to not to be detailed clears my worries. While it's true that my characters aren't that unique in terms of facial features, again I stressed, I just want to give the readers the experience of having a clear picture of my characters.

    No, no. Everyone here has been so helpful. Everyone are responsive even to a newbie like me. Some peoples in my real-life are too busy to spare their little times helping me. So this forum really helps me a lot as a writer. Thanks guys, for the inputs.
     
  17. jdefriez

    jdefriez New Member

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    This is the way I think about it in my writing:

    What someone notices about other people gives important information about many dimensions of their identity. For example, the following characters would likely see the people they encounter in fundamentally different ways:
    A fashion critic,
    A hairdresser,
    A closeted gay man,
    A tattoo artist,
    etc.

    I would recommend answering the question about describing faces by thinking less about anatomy and more about the POV of your novel and what you're trying to say about people's identities (and most importantly, the identity of the noticer). Think about the ways people announce, parade, and tokenize their identities by what they wear, how they keep (or don't keep their hair). When I'm writing from a character's point of view, I only describe faces when my character would pause to think about or actually notice these descriptions. When I'm writing from a third person perspective, I only include the details my characters would use to index and make sense of each other.
     
  18. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    I think he should be allowed to describe somebody's face.

    People say this line about not doing so...so often. If he writes the words in an interesting way we keep reading. Imagine if you were captured by a person's beauty, felt a compulsion to detail every line and wrinkle, were enthralled, well, your passion would transmit, it would be lush to tumble headlong with the narrator.

    The opposite perspective is arch and dreary.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2017
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  19. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    I don't like book where the MC's picture is on the cover. What if he's supposed to be so irresistible when I find him so unappealing? This ruins it for me.
    It is impossible to bend others imagination to your own vision. How could you verify that all your readers "see" your characters in the exact same way anyway? Is it even important? If you can make your readers believe that your character is beautiful, in as many or as few words as you wish to use, then you'll have done your job as a writer.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2017
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  20. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Obviously he should be allowed to... hopefully I haven't misunderstood the role of the forum... we aren't actually the writing police, are we?

    But I think your middle paragraph needs some more unpacking. If anybody writes anything in an interesting way we keep reading--that's because it's interesting. But what are the chances of something being interesting? I disagree that if the character or author is enthralled by something the passion will automatically transmit. I think it takes a hell of a lot of skill to make that happen. So if the OP has that kind of skill, okay, maybe it's worth a shot, but the vast majority of us don't.
     
  21. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I think one other issue with 'she had small sexy lips' is that sexy isnt generally objective different people find different things sexy and at least for me small lips doesnt really do it .. I'd say full sensual lips would be sexy
     
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