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Any tips and tricks for fantasy character introductory description?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Pratik Mane, Sep 2, 2018.

  1. Pratik Mane

    Pratik Mane Acolyte

    I'm currently writing and editing the first chapter of my novel which I'm going to publish in wattpad. I want some suggestions for introductory description of a fantasy character. What are the characteristics I should mention and how.
  2. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    Write out everything you see in your head and then decide what's most relevant to the scene or feel of your story. If a character is of a species of your own design you may want to mix something familiar with the new elements for the reader to have some level of familiarity...unless you want the character to feel completely foreign.
    Don't only think of the physical appearance. Think of the sound of their voice, scents, texture of their skin or hair, the way they move. Put yourself in the situation of being the character in your story who walks into a room and sees them for they first time. What four or five things would come to your attention.
    Pratik Mane likes this.
  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Contrast and comparison can help to decide the characteristics you choose.

    If the character stands out in some way within the society or among friends or even in comparison to a single companion, the features might be worth mentioning, especially if the character is self-conscious about this.

    If a society prizes certain features over others, the character can be self-conscious in a positive or negative way: the character doesn't possess that feature or does possess that feature. Even if the character isn't particularly self-conscious about it, perhaps someone who is in dialogue with the character might point the feature out in some way during conversation.

    This can work for both, physical and non-physical characteristics.
    Laurence and Pratik Mane like this.
  4. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    Mannerisms, posture, expressions - what your character actually looks like doesn’t tell your reader anything terribly useful.
    And there’s a benefit to leaving as much to the readers’ imagination as you can allow.
    Pratik Mane likes this.
  5. Pratik Mane

    Pratik Mane Acolyte

    Thank you very much for the suggestion sir
  6. Pratik Mane

    Pratik Mane Acolyte

    Thank you Sir.
  7. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    Don't just think of the physical description but also their wardrobe when they're not out saving the world, their personalities and their scent.

    "Your brown skin shining in the sun / You got your hair combed back / Sunglasses on baby" - Granted this is from the song "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley but the image created in just a handful of words shows that you don't need lavish descriptions to create vivid images.

    "I could picture the smooth oval of Laura’s face, her neatly pinned chignon, the dress she would have been wearing: a shirtwaist with a small rounded collar, in a sober colour – navy blue or steel grey or hospital-corridor green. Penitential colours – less like something she’d chosen to put on than like something she’d been locked up in.’ (p. 4)" - The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood.

    [Mrs. Ramsay] looked at him. He was such a miserable specimen, the children said, all humps and hollows. He couldn’t play cricket; he poked; he shuffled. He was a sarcastic brute, Andrew said. They knew what he liked best – to be for ever walking up and down, up and down, with Mr. Ramsay, saying who had won this, who had won that …’ (p. 11) - To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf.

    ‘He was a rich man: banker, merchant, manufacturer, and what not. A big, loud man, with a stare, and a metallic laugh. A man made out of coarse material, which seemed to have been stretched to make so much of him… A man who was always proclaiming, through that brassy speaking-trumpet of a voice of his, his old ignorance and his old poverty. A man who was the Bully of humility.’ (p. 18) - Hard Times, Charles Dickens.

    It's always a good idea to read widely across different genres and check out the character descriptions they use. For me what matters with character descriptions is that they make a lasting and vivid impression upon the readers. If you can do that in as few words as practical then do so.
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    None of all that matters as much as the tone and attitude you're describing them with. Whose voice are you writing with? How do they feel about the character? (in many cases, themselves)

    The goal isn't to think of the features and then the best way to describe them. The first goal should be to think of the tone, and then develop or choose features that fit the tone. He is arrogant and rude, so he's probably groomed his greasy auburn hair with many sweeping angry strokes as a release in the morning. Or he's shy and lets people walk on him? His beard was patchy, like he had an uneven shave four days ago and was too afraid to fix it.

    Of course it doesn't have to be quite as to the point as these examples. And you probably do have features that you need to keep to like Harry Potter's scar. But remember that the point of the description isn't to paint a detailed picture and expect the reader to remember it. It's to give the first impressions of a character. Those impressions matter more than the finer details, so put a little of your focus on them.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  9. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    Excellent points. It's easy to forget the tone of writing can play a major role in how we view the character. The examples I chose in my previous post all show very different tones when introducing the characters but I hadn't noticed that when I had done the post.
  10. bdcharles

    bdcharles Minstrel

    You mght also want to make your characters' features do something, rather than just "her auburn hair cascaded" or "his large frame stood" or "it was"-type things like that. Use body language and description-in-action, so maybe "she ran one elegant hand down her cascade of auburn hair" or "he shouldered his large frame past two ranks of underlings." That way, something is happening that both shows your character and makes something happen in the plot, even if it's just a person moving from A to B or displaying a piece of their personality. Good luck :)

    EDIT: and yes, as others have said, if you can present this stuff via the filter, the voice, of some POV character, then so much the better. But a more distant POV can work too. It depends on a number of things.
    Miles Lacey likes this.
  11. EponasSong

    EponasSong Scribe

    As a reader I enjoy description tied in with what the character is doing or feeling. Like trying to walk through a crowd could be a good time to mention if the character is on the heavier side, making it more difficult. Or if it is a female with long hair, have the hair get in the way (I have pretty long hair and this does happen especially when its windy).

    Those are just a couple examples.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.

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