Monday, May 14, 2012

Raven Hair and Violet Eyes by Linda S. Glaz

Unless she has raven black hair and violet blue eyes, and he has the fabric of his shirt straining across broad shoulders, we don't know our characters' appearances all that much. But time is better spent on deep POV you say.

Well, yes. I do think deeper POV has brought our characters' internal dialogues to life, but at what expense? Let's take Jane Austen, for example. You knew her characters inside AND out. In genre fiction, all the characters I read look alike in my mind. They are simply in different situations. Now, I'll grant you, on occasion we get a good description of a character, but I'm finding it less often than ever before.

Instead, he will have (and I'm guilty of this, too, so don't think I'm not including myself) a jagged scar through his brow, corded muscles along his neck and shoulders. She will have a perfect bow-shaped mouth. They might both have piercing eyes, lines that fan from their eyes. Well, you get my point.

I think it's time for us to spend a bit more time our characters' externals to equal the time we spend on them internally. I want a character to leap off the pages so well that I could pick them out of a crowd.

But that's just my take...


Heather Day Gilbert said...

I totally agree. I love having some bits left to my own imagination. Then again, my pet peeve is not knowing the characters' hair color. It makes a huge difference in my mind if the main character is a redhead vs a brunette.

I love the way the classics delve into the character instead of the visuals. We know that Bathsheba is gypsy-ish in coloration, yet she has an air of innocence (in Far from the Madding Crowd). Or we know that Scarlett O'Hara was NOT beautiful, but she was vivid in coloration and personality.

Davalyn Spencer said...

I have been so tempted to write about a less-than-perfect heroine and a balding hero. I mean really - did anybody get a good look at Robert Duvall (without his hat) on Lonesome Dove? I'd pick him out of a crowd any time.

Timothy Fish said...

I was thinking the other day about how little attention I pay to the description of a character unless that appearance plays an important part in the plot. Spending a paragraph describing appearance does no good, whether the character is looking in the mirror, another character is seeing the character, or if the author just tells us what the character looks like. We soon forget. But if it is important to the plot and the author spends significant time with the appearance of a character, we never forget.

Lynn Donovan said...

I agree too. While i do not want a paragraph of clinical descriptions, i do want my character's description revealed naturally through his/her actions. Everybody touches their face or moves their hair or touches their scalp. I want to know what that looked like. Eyes, nose, scars, hair color, length, lack of... it makes the character real and the reader see and feel him or her.