So you’ve thought up your characters personalities, names, and backgrounds, and are feeling inspired! But what do they really look like?
Owch. Sometimes you come up with characters easily, but other times it’s a blank wall. You see your character through their own eyes and there are no mirrors in the action scenes. Not only that, perhaps you’ve come up with characters but they all seem a bit boring when you describe them. I’m sure it’s happened to all of us, so it’s time to come face to face with what your characters will look like.
Coming up completely blank? It’s not always easy to imagine all of a character’s features put together, or at all. But there are a bunch of things that can help. When I get stuck, I play Sims Freeplay, and the paid for versions give you even more choice on how to customise your characters: you can decide how they walk, their voice, and traits. Some authors make Mii characters on Nintendo games. Others use anime design sites such as this.
Now, let’s start with the head. Who’d have guessed that would be important? Well, most people don’t understand how much. When you describe a character you can’t just list everything you see. It’s realistic but it’s boring and not effective. If you say everything at once, your readers will forget it, so at the first chance I suggest putting in your important character’s hair, skin, and eye colour. Any other details can wait.
But what about the show don’t tell rule? If you’re clever, even that can be used in your character’s description. For example, “Brown hair bounced about her face.” While I told you the character had brown hair, I showed you what it was like with the verb “bounced” and hinted at the character’s personality. By describing what the character’s features are doing, you can tell the reader much more about them and still leave them to their imagination. Don’t drown a reader in adjectives just so they’re forced to imagine a character your way.
EXAGGERATE! Oh yeah, that was necessary. You want to highlight a certain feature of your character? Make it the biggest or smallest thing possible. Make it the -est of anything. If a character is a loud mouth, they better have the biggest mouth ever. If you want them to be quiet or strict give them a tiny mouth or sharp lips. Stereotypes can help, too. While you might not like to use them, it’s easier to suggest a character is masculine if they have a heavy, square, jaw rather than a thin, pointed one. However, if your character is there to break stereotypes send them as far as possible in the other direction physically, before you drag the reader back around with the plot.
You also need to consider their body. Height is a major factor. From what I’ve seen, it’s pretty popular to have short characters become powerful, because to be short can be a disadvantage. That’s just another way of breaking stereotypes between the character’s appearance and their role in the plot. You should also consider their body type because neither couch potatoes or body-builders look exactly like models, and it’s really annoying for a reader to imagine everyone being physically perfect.
Not only that, but how do they walk? Like I said, doing things is the best way to reveal personality. Say a character “swaggers”, they’re probably super confident with themselves. If they “slouch” they might want to hide themselves, or maybe something else…
Lastly, use contrast. This one is a life saver! You might have a character with a big smile or a confident walk, but what if they’re secretly insecure? You should absolutely have one small feature that shows how they truly feel. Perhaps a character seems happy to others in the story but, actually, their hands always fidget when they get nervous.
Well, Blogoleptics, now it’s your turn. Comment any extra tips below or give us an example of how you use them. Enjoy the writing!