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character appearance (face, body, clothes, etc) (1 Viewer)

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alpacinoutd

Senior Member
Hello all.

Do you describe every detail about the main character's physical appearance and clothes or do you leave it to the imagination of the reader?

For practicing description, I have decided to describe the appearance and clothes of photos of people that I see on the news or social media.

I would appreciate if you would help me get started. For example, how would you describe the outfit she is wearing and the accessories she is carrying in this photo? What about her hair? I know I can say light brown raincoat but I'm looking for more sophisticated and interesting terms.

01.jpg
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
While I seldom describe physical characteristics such as short or tall unless it's pertinent to the story, I love to describe characters' clothing. What people wear is a reflection of who they are. It's one of the tools in the box that we have as writers to show not tell. But when I describe the clothes, I typically link them to an inner thought. For this example, if I wanted to characterize her outfit, I would say something like:

She was glad she chose the classic double-breasted camel hair coat and matching merino wool turtleneck. The tiny LV clutch provided the perfect suggestion of success without being too pretentious. She seldom wore this outfit, but it was always a winner when meeting the parents.

 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
It's very rare for me to describe either physical appearance or clothing, unless it adds to the story in some way. Readers fill in those blanks. But I'd say if you do, be sure to beat the reader to it. I've had a couple of occasions where I already had my own mental picture of a character, then the author got around to it, and it's something different. Annoying. ;-) The author creates the character, but it soon belongs to the reader.

I did a few times in my just completed, only because I'm writing mythological figures who already have descriptions in ancient lore, statuary, and art. But I still didn't go into much detail.
 

K.S. Crooks

Senior Member
I describe enough to make each character different. In North America the typical assumption is that the characters are white and male unless told otherwise; thus I tell the reader. I like to describe a character's skin, hair and eye colour, their height, build and age. Clothing is mentioned especially if it's something that serves another function such as armor. These are done in whatever way best suits the story. I see describing characters no different than describing cars. If a car race is about to happen I would describe the colour, make, model and other features of the cars involved, why not do the same for people. One way to go about this is to start with what you think a person meeting your character would notice first.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I prefer to paint with broad strokes and let the reader's imagination fill in the details.

For my current novel, Redemption (still in the editing phase):
MMC:
Tom was an average-looking man; twenty-nine years old with shaggy brown hair, blue eyes, and an olive complexion that stood just over six feet tall and weighed about 210 pounds. Dressed in his usual garb of jeans a pullover shirt and moccasins, he didn’t seem particularly formidable, but appearances frequently lie. As a Butchers Guild assassin and a practitioner of Shaolin Kenpo, he could seem externally at peace while internally ready for war.

FMC: (Her description is more drawn out because I focused more on her personality before mentioning her appearance.)
Eris lay tangled in the sheets of her boss’s bed, staring at the ceiling as she considered her messed-up life. She hated quiet times like this; with Anton softly snoring nearby her mind too often wandered, allowing guilt to creep through the cracks in her carefully constructed world. What she was doing was wrong, but a girl’s gotta do whatever it takes to get ahead.
[...]
She rolled onto her side and gazed at Anton; he was old enough to be her father, but for his age, he wasn’t bad looking and was still adequate between the sheets. For him, their affair was all about the ego boost and sex, but for her, it was about the benefits that came after. Pretty romantic words and deeds never mattered, love was just a pleasant myth spoken of in fairy tales; sex was a transaction, both parties used each other either for pleasure or to get ahead in life. In that sense, everyone was a capitalist.
[...]
She stared into the mirror while brushing her long blonde hair and fixing her makeup, considering the conversation with her boss. Her husband was a decent man and if he were powerful and had more to offer, she would be attracted to him, but his job in the CSL Information Technology Department wasn’t enough for her anymore. She still appreciated his help getting her current position, but his usefulness had passed and soon she would be through with him.

Finally dressed in a blue denim miniskirt, a tight-fitting black long sleeve knit top, and open-toed wedges, she returned to the main room of Anton’s apartment in the Strat Hotel. She glanced about, appreciating the beauty of the place; one day it would be hers.

Anton waited for her by the windows, dressed in a tailored gray suit. She went to him, touched, then kissed his cheek. “You were wonderful today,” she lied.
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
...and an olive complexion that stood just over six feet tall and weighed about 210 pounds...
I didn't know they could stack olives that high!

I know, but I couldn't resist.

attachment.php


Her husband looked straight ahead as they followed the family to the gravesite. He wore his plain grey sweater under the black wool overcoat. He held the umbrella steady and upright, his only show of emotion in the white knuckles of his ungloved hand. It would be natural to think he chose his wardrobe for mourning. But it was the same thing he wore everyday since being tenured- five more grey sweaters, five more matching shirts hung neatly on his side of the closet. Except the mask. Today, he chose a mask to match the umbrella.

She wore a camel overcoat and a cashmere blouse of the same color. She refused to wear black on this day- not for that old bitch laying in the ivory box. Her mask was the one her husband wore on their anniversary last spring. He made her put it in her purse- masks were hard to come by in those days. She should have cleaned out her purse months ago. She had forgotten it was there. He didn't.

She looked away as they walked. Close enough to stay under his umbrella. Not so close they touched. Damn him. Damn the old bitch.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I didn't know they could stack olives that high!

I know, but I couldn't resist.

attachment.php


Her husband looked straight ahead as they followed the family to the gravesite. He wore his plain grey sweater under the black wool overcoat. He held the umbrella steady and upright, his only show of emotion in the white knuckles of his ungloved hand. It would be natural to think he chose his wardrobe for mourning. But it was the same thing he wore everyday since being tenured- five more grey sweaters, five more matching shirts hung neatly on his side of the closet. Except the mask. Today, he chose a mask to match the umbrella.

She wore a camel overcoat and a cashmere blouse of the same color. She refused to wear black on this day- not for that old bitch laying in the ivory box. Her mask was the one her husband wore on their anniversary last spring. He made her put it in her purse- masks were hard to come by in those days. She should have cleaned out her purse months ago. She had forgotten it was there. He didn't.

She looked away as they walked. Close enough to stay under his umbrella. Not so close they touched. Damn him. Damn the old bitch.

Nicely done.
 

alpacinoutd

Senior Member
In terms of the physical appearance of the character, face, body, etc, I try to base that on the photo of real people. For example, in a story, I have a female character who is attractive. In my mind, I imagined she'd look something like this:

27503563_1566973343349904_753346570312046124_o.jpg

26758089_1548656885181550_6330724897711107202_o.jpg

I would appreciate it if you would share some of the vocabularies that could be used to describe people like that.
 

Riptide

WF Veterans
I don't describe much in the way of appearance. A quick one-two of hair styles, race, height, what have you. I go more in depth for characters the MC finds attractive.

@Taylor clothing is a good description choice. I never thought of it like that.

I'm really not good at on the spot descriptions if I'm not in the mood for them... but, I do have some examples of what I do for clothing, which might help? Mind you, though, these characters are known already to be Korean so describing their physical hair/eye/skin color is mute, even though it's the first time the MC is seeing them.

For some reason, I pictured Rory’s mom in a pantsuit, so color me surprise when she opened the door in sweatpants and an aged Harvard law sweatshirt. She was mature, but younger than I imagined with a smoothness around her eyes.

and

From the stairwell behind her, an older Korean gentleman appeared in cargo pants and an aqua and white striped T, looking more at ease on a golfing course than a house. Removing his glasses, he squinted at Rory until a grin split his cheeks. “It really is you.”


Basically, it's just the main character's assumptions being turned on their heads.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I don't describe much in the way of appearance. A quick one-two of hair styles, race, height, what have you. I go more in depth for characters the MC finds attractive.

@Taylor clothing is a good description choice. I never thought of it like that.

I'm really not good at on the spot descriptions if I'm not in the mood for them... but, I do have some examples of what I do for clothing, which might help? Mind you, though, these characters are known already to be Korean so describing their physical hair/eye/skin color is mute, even though it's the first time the MC is seeing them.
[...]

I think that we should keep our character's POV in mind when we describe either themselves, or others they interact with. The women I know pay much more attention to what people wear than men do. That stuff doesn't register with me, or any of my male friends. Personality also plays a role; in my WIP my FMC pays attention to what she wears because her appearance is a source of power, but my MMC (a hired killer) dresses for utility.

Me, coming out of our bedroom feeling good about what I'm wearing: "Hey babe! Look at this."
Wife, glances derisively in my direction: "Yeah, t-shirt and jeans again... wow."
Me: "I got this shirt at the Sturgis Rally 20 years ago."
Wife: "It has holes in it. I'm not going out with you looking like that."
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I don't describe much in the way of appearance. A quick one-two of hair styles, race, height, what have you. I go more in depth for characters the MC finds attractive.

@Taylor clothing is a good description choice. I never thought of it like that.

I'm really not good at on the spot descriptions if I'm not in the mood for them... but, I do have some examples of what I do for clothing, which might help? Mind you, though, these characters are known already to be Korean so describing their physical hair/eye/skin color is mute, even though it's the first time the MC is seeing them.

For some reason, I pictured Rory’s mom in a pantsuit, so color me surprise when she opened the door in sweatpants and an aged Harvard law sweatshirt. She was mature, but younger than I imagined with a smoothness around her eyes.

and

From the stairwell behind her, an older Korean gentleman appeared in cargo pants and an aqua and white striped T, looking more at ease on a golfing course than a house. Removing his glasses, he squinted at Rory until a grin split his cheeks. “It really is you.”


Basically, it's just the main character's assumptions being turned on their heads.

See now that is exactly what I'm talking about. Love it! The fact that she's wearng an "aged Harvard Law sweatshirt" is great character development. So much more interesting than putting that she went to Harvard and is a lawyer in the narative. Sure there's a possibility that she is wearing someone elses shirt, but is unlikely. The reader gets it. And even if you had to reinforce it later, perhaps in dialgue, for example, "I didn't know your mom was a lawyer", it still speaks volumes.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
Nope. If there's something the reader needs to understand about the character, then describe it. Otherwise, give a very brief overview of the basics and leave the rest up to the reader's imagination.
 

alpacinoutd

Senior Member
In terms of the physical appearance of the character, face, body, etc, I try to base that on the photo of real people. For example, in a story, I have a female character who is attractive. In my mind, I imagined she'd look something like this:

View attachment 26626

View attachment 26627

I would appreciate it if you would share some of the vocabularies that could be used to describe people like that.

Sorry folks but this post got overlooked.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
It depends on what sort of mood I'm trying to create, although, in general, I think I need to add in more sometimes (same with the sense of smell). It also depends if the character you're writing is an 'every-man' and you want the reader to identify as themselves while reading. In that case you'd like not even bother with looks, or at least only include minor details. But, if you wanted the reader to feel as if they were witnessing the story through the eyes of an avatar, you'd add more detail.
 

Matchu

Senior Member
Fecundity. Desire. Voluptuous. Ermine. Sparkle. Charm. Lust. Scent. Delicious. Delight. Sexy. Groan. Abandon. Embrace. Slim. Thick. Delicate. Bright. Bosom. Breasts. Buttocks. Bottom. Ass or backside, arse. Lick. Kiss. Tender. Joy. Like... like...use your own examples...like corn fields of Banska Bystrica (eg) ehmm...lover...lips. Undress. Naked. Nude. Dribble. reader. Dirty. man. is old.
 

alpacinoutd

Senior Member
I'm writing a story. I decided to imagine this person in my mind and describe it for the reader. One of the characters in the story has a crush on him and he should be described in a positive light.

uW5b90k.jpg


He is supposed to have greenish brown eyes.

How would you describe this guy?
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
Hello all.

Do you describe every detail about the main character's physical appearance and clothes or do you leave it to the imagination of the reader?

For practicing description, I have decided to describe the appearance and clothes of photos of people that I see on the news or social media.

I would appreciate if you would help me get started. For example, how would you describe the outfit she is wearing and the accessories she is carrying in this photo? What about her hair? I know I can say light brown raincoat but I'm looking for more sophisticated and interesting terms.

View attachment 26622
Hi Al,
Typically, unless its germane to the story, I do not provide descriptions. When I say 'germane to the story' I mean moments when a character is looking at themselves in a mirror, for example, or if there is a characteristic that is causing a reacting in another person (i.e. a runny nose, a stray hair, food dripped onto a perfectly pressed shirt); that kind of thing. I think it is more fun for the reader to make up their own mind. For example, how would describing William and Kate's clothing in the picture above give anything to the story you are telling.

If I was wanting to describe the picture above, I would probably say -

"They stood shoulder to shoulder in the rain, with William holding the umbrella over Kate. They were both subdued in their dress, wearing face masks and their demeanor was respectful, as Kate glanced <toward the casket going by>."`~
 
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