1. United

    United Member

    Nov 8, 2014
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    When to reveal character traits?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by United, Apr 9, 2015.

    Is it 'acceptable' to give a character's traits (physical, emotional, etc.) in a single chapter, or is it generally better to space out character description throughout the entire book.?

    And is it okay if you never reveal everything about a character (ex: you never reveal a character's eye color, height, skin color, etc.)?

    Or do readers generally want everything about a character if at all possible?
  2. A.M.P.

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Contributor

    Sep 30, 2013
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    A Place with no History
    Physical description is up to the author, really.
    Half the time, most people don't realize the appearance was never mentioned as they substitute their own.
    If you do describe character, don't do it from head to toe, and the briefer and precise the better.

    Typically, a reader should learn a thing or two about the character early on.
    That doesn't mean write "Sarah is very brave so she went straight into the dark hallway" but simply show us that she is brave.
    Readers pick up on those kind of things, they don't need to be told everything.
  3. Lance Schukies

    Lance Schukies Active Member

    Apr 1, 2015
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    I agree with the physical you can skip it for the mc, as for personality and character give a good overview early and build on it as the story goes. just try not to have the mc or any characters do things out of character,
  4. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Mar 17, 2013
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    For me, getting a brief physical description early on works 'cause then I don't have time to imagine something of my own and then 50 pages later learn that the character looks completely different... It's mildly annoying.

    Of course it's possible the character's physical traits change; maybe she'll grow huge muscles or he stops shaving or something, so you might want to mention such changes later. But note that there're readers who don't like physical descriptions, some even seem to fervently loathe them, but it's important that you do your own thing, write it in a way you're comfortable with. Just be careful you don't micro-manage and get fixated on "the reader must see this character the way I do." It's likely we won't. You'll give us an approximation but allow us to add something of our own to the character as well.

    As for emotional traits. It's easy to show them through the character's actions, reactions, decisions etc. as the story progresses. This will probably happen quite naturally as you let your plot unfold and whenever you ask yourself how s/he would react here and why, and that's how you show who they are.
  5. RachHP

    RachHP Senior Member

    Jan 16, 2015
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    I think it's common practise to give descriptors on the character in the first chapter, but not in huge quantities. Unless you're doing so for a reason (your MC is in a chamber, being reworked into an entirely different body/gender/species, for example) a top-to-toe examination is going to be dull. Personally, I like to be given the basics (always nice to know if MC is male or female :bigwink:) and pick up the rest as the story goes on.

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