Skip to main content

NANOWRIMO - Characters' Appearance


Saturday 2nd November 2019 – Characters: Part One – Appearance

This is a tricky one!  To make your characters entirely believable, your reader wants to see beyond the physical exterior.  But, all the same, you as the writer need to consider what your characters look like.  It can be slightly awkward when a character’s hair colour suddenly changes, or they mysteriously grow a foot taller in two weeks.

Photo by Tayla Walsh, Pexels


Not many of us notice the colour of someone’s eyes the first time we meet them.  Instead, we usually see their face as a whole and associate a certain emotion with them.  People might have strict, pointy features, or perhaps a sullen frown or laughing eyes.  These descriptions are a lot closer to what we experience when we meet someone, a sense you want your readers to have.  They don’t want to imagine they're looking at a photograph, they want to encounter your characters as an equal.

There are, of course, obvious exceptions to this.  In some genres, the colour of someone’s eyes may be significant.  If you have a family of characters, you might want to highlight a physical feature which make them all look alike (for example, we have a “Temperton nose” in our family, which is a very distinct shape).

So, here are a few things to think about:
  • Know how tall your characters are. You don’t have to announce their height to the reader, but perhaps they are so tall they have to duck under lintels, or they’re short enough to fit under a table.  Also – and this is a biggie! – know how tall they are compared to your other characters.
  • What do they wear? You can tell a lot about a character based on their clothes and their jewellery.  Do they have a wedding ring?  Do they wear a suit?  Do they have a logo on their t-shirt?
  • Faces are animate objects.  When one part of them moves, other features tend to take the strain.  Example: when you frown, your forehead creases.  So, you don’t have to constantly be writing about the shape of someone’s mouth, you can vary the way of detailing expression.
  • Think of something your character is like.  If someone is well-built, they might be as wide as an ox, or if they are light on their feet, they could be as graceful as a swan.  There are hundreds of animals you can personify, and instantly your reader sees an added dimension to the character.
  • All these things being said, think carefully about clichés in descriptions.  Sometimes, clichés are so well used because they work, sometimes they just help lazy writing!
Virginia Crow
www.crowvus.com


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

GUEST POST - "Hallo teachers! Would you like to write a book?" by Jessica Norrie

  The Magic Carpet  is available at  http://getbook.at/TheMagicCarpet I'm absolutely thrilled to share this gem of a blog by Jessica Norrie on the Crowvus Book Blog. It's personally relatable for me, too, as I'm teacher who also writes children's fiction. I just love all the comments made in this blog - they are so true! It's a delight to meet another author/teacher/soprano! Check out the links to Jessica Norrie's books at the end of the blog too! Hallo teachers! Would you like to write a book? Primary and English teachers spend their days with books. It’s not surprising many dream of writing their own. Some make the big time - think Philip Pullman, Eoin Colfer, Michael Morpurgo. Teachers start with several professional advantages: 1) All child and adult human life enters the classroom. Teachers overhear conversations, respond to different personalities, encounter heartrending or enviable household  circumstances. They see family and cultural likenesses and cont

#IndieApril Craggy Blog: On the Hoof!

When people say they’re doing something “on the hoof”, it generally implies they’re making it up as they go along. When it came to writing my first book, I did so on the hoof in more ways than one. The photos that feature in Craggy the Coo Wants a Place to Call Home  were snapped all over Scotland, from the top of mountains to the surface of Loch Ness. But the words that accompany the pictures were largely concocted near my hometown of Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway. I’m relatively notorious in these parts for embarking on epic walks of 20-30 miles around the surrounding hills. And while most people would carry their phone to chart their route or maybe listen to music, I used mine to put words to my pictures. Having all the photos of Craggy’s travels on my iPhone meant I could weave a clear narrative together based on where he happened to be, and what could be seen in each image. So I would set off on a long walk armed with all I needed to create the verses and his direction of trav

#IndieApril Craggy Blog: My Inspiration

When I’m asked who my favourite author is, I also tend to consider who my favourite writers have been at various stages of my life. When I was very young, Roald Dahl could not be beaten. Like many children, I found his sense of mischief combined with superlative storytelling and Quentin Blake’s glorious illustrations irresistible. In my angsty teenage years, I must have re-read JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye  about 20 times, dreaming of leaving boarding school and running off to the States with just a rucksack on my back (which I actually did for a year when I was 17. I wasn’t quite as rebellious as Holden Caulfield though. It was all above board.) But the writer who has stood the test of time with me most, and was taken from us far too soon, is Iain Banks. I love the twisty intrigue of Complicity , in which my hometown of Langholm has an early cameo. I adore the assault on the hypocrisies of organised religion that lie at the heart of Whit . In my teens, I was traumatised in a can’t