f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 6 of Characterization – The Way You Look Tonight

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Day 6 of Characterization – The Way You Look Tonight

A few points on physical description of characters:

  1. The most annoying thing in the world is trying to give physical description from the first-person POV or a limited third-person POV with only one narrator. Most writers feel compelled to do it all in a chunk. Mirrors, bowls of water, darkened windows, reflections in puddles. It’s all been done. Feel free to space out the details. We don’t need a police sketch.

  2. Eye color is overrated as a meaningful descriptor and vastly abused. Especially in romances. (Sorry, you know it’s true.)

  3. Try not to let a single physical characteristic—“strong jaw,” “thin lips,” “aggressive bosom”—become the definition of a character. That seems antiquated.

  4. Describing clothes may be more important than actually body description. “Clothes make the man,” after all. But skip name brands. That’s for chick-lit, and chick-lit alone.

  5. How your character looks at and sees other characters says a lot about him/her. Use those descriptions of others to reflect back on your POV character.

  6. Character description is a weakness of mine as a writer. I tend not to care greatly what my characters look like. It’s more important to me how they sound.

  7. In the same vein, I think you’re more likely to be ignored in character description and setting description than anywhere else in your book. Maybe I think this solely because I do it, but I’ll create my own images of setting and character based on the book’s tone and the character’s voice. And like I mentioned yesterday, the less specific detail you give, the more opportunity there is for a reader to see themselves in that character.

  8. Maybe that’s me. Do you guys linger over physical description or rush past?