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What does your main character look like?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by valiant12, May 16, 2016.

  1. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

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    What kind of body shape does your main character have? How old is (s)he ? How would you describe your character's face? How would you describe his height, hands, eyes, hair, skin color, etc?

    How relevant to the plot is the way your character look?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 16, 2016
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Here's the introductory description of my MC from my current WiP:
    Later on, another character in the story describes her like this:
    As you see. There isn't much detail provided. There's a bit of framework and some notable characteristics, but overall, there's a lot of details for a reader to fill in.

    Edit:
    The way this character looks is not essential to the story at the moment. However, it might be later, like if someone decides to judge her by her appearance.
    The tattoo is very important for her back story, and it obviously affects how others perceive her.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
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  3. glutton

    glutton Inkling

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    I have many MCs but the one in my current WIP is a 5'1, 160 lb scar-covered battle tank of a 27 year old girl who carries around a hammer with a head as big as her torso and is often filthy.

    Her appearance isn't so much relevant in itself as the traits it implies... she is basically the grown up version of an over-the-top anime loli warrior, who is no longer skinny as her massive appetite has caught up with her but still kicks plenty of giant monster butt.
     
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  4. AJ Stevens

    AJ Stevens Minstrel

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    Average height and build, short cropped grey hair and blue eyes (which are different to the grey eyes that most of the local population has). Sharp features. Appears to be in his late forties by modern human standards, but he is roughly 150 years old - he's a mage, therefore lives longer than normal.

    Sports a tattoo that runs up the middle of his torso, from his navel to the top of his sternum - a line, about two finger widths wide, bisecting circles of various sizes along its length.

    Overall, not dissimilar to many popular depictions of Julius Caesar.
     
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  5. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Blond, Tall, but not as tall as his brothers.

    Importance: He takes after his mother, not father.

    Might be other details from other POV's, but anything else is superfluous.

    I tend to describe secondaries, or even one shot characters, more than POV characters.
     
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  6. Jude: Brown hair, brown eyes, the dude be huge though muscle wise. He is about 1.5 times as wide as an average person but it is pure muscle garnered from a workout regime and using a forge from a super young age. He is super strong, like doing a workout power clean of about 300lbs. Square faced.

    Garren: brown hair and eyes. Skinny but well toned. Average height but he can activate a purple fle on his arm so he can steal bits of people's souls.
     
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  7. ScipioSmith

    ScipioSmith Sage

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    Dagmar is a short-ish elf girl (or aelfa) with pale blonde hair and unfashionably pale skin. I haven't decided on the eye colour yet because the entire book is written from her POV and so there hasn't been an occasion to work it into organically.

    Her looks are important inasmuch as I'm doing the 'heroine thinks she is plain/ugly even though she's totally hot and two people are in love with her' think as part of the YA influence upon my current work (also doing the 'heroine thinks she is a friendless loser even though a small army of cool people are completely devoted to her safety and happiness' thing, but that isn't so dependent on appearance).
     
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  8. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Hey! What a fun thread. :)

    I wish that I had quotes for you but I tend to thread descriptions of characters throughout the narrative. So let's see...Zina is around 17. She's petite, frail, and very thin due to malnutrition. So...she's a weakling and it affects her emotions. She's kind of a crybaby which she's very aware of and tries to change. Long black hair she wears in braids and wrapped by scarves. Olive toned skin, dark eyes, sharp facial features, innocent looking until she steals your purse.

    Her people are an indigenous tribe from tundra lands. She dresses like a boy sometimes with pants and her boyfriend's long shirts, a cape, and jewelry she steals. Rather a sharp-tongued gal, too for when it counts. And boys. She really likes boys.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 16, 2016
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  9. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Andomeda is 13, an eighth grader from Brooklyn. Spanish/Mexican/Caucasian mix.

    Olive skin, mousy brown hair, hazel eyes. Athletic.
     
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  10. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

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    My WIP is based around a family. I may occasionally state facts about their appearance if they indicate which child is more similar to which parent, but even then, usually only if I'm describing said body part interacting with something (easy to do with hands.)

    I may also describe other details to give a general idea of the look of different races, as the parents are from differing backgrounds. Again, I try to weave descriptions in to actions...and occasionally insults.
     
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  11. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Looks are completely irrelevant to the overall plot.

    My MC is a southpaw so the fencing and horsemanship get a little funky -- some horses won't let you mount from the right; they'll sidestep and drop you on your ass, and you won't know until you try -- and you can't mount from the left wearing a sword on your right side. (If you don't believe me, try it sometime. Just have 911 on speed-dial first.)

    I poke some fun because the MC is on the short side of normal, so he doesn't always get his share of the sidewalk. But it really doesn't impact the plot other than to deepen the immersion. I hope.

    The MC's description on Page 6:

    With a ponytail and goatee the color of the wet sand behind him, he was on the small side of medium-sized but his proportions were exaggerated with slabs of long muscle, catlike.

    There are 90,000 more words and I don't describe him again, except for what he's wearing, and later when he dreadlocks his hair. I let the reader fill in the rest. I do this with most of my major characters; one paragraph of general description and the rest is on you.

    --
    The MC's sidekick. I went for a Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser / Mutt and Jeff trope, here:

    Nearly seven feet tall and so immensely muscled as to appear capable of pulling locomotives with his teeth, his head and goatee were shorn equally close and flecked with gray. Tanned biceps the size of footballs shoved at the turned-up sleeves of his T-shirt, a vast expanse of black across which faux bloodstains marred the stencil GET UP.

    I make occasional references to the size of this guy because, like the left-handed MC, his physique has effects on his daily interactions with the world.

    --

    A female knight commander:

    Tall and tough with a tangled black pixie cut and a muscular neck, she was an immense presence. Her face was honest and athletic; her nose, tan and freckled, had been badly broken and never set. But what she lacked in cheesecake she compensated for with a striking sexual power: earthy, hungry, rough-and-tumble. Carter liked her on sight.

    --

    The MC meets the Faerie:

    Jarrod forgot most of their names when a young Faerie woman, mind-shatteringly beautiful and smelling for all the world like fruit punch Jolly Ranchers, hugged him to her and kissed his cheek.

    “Welcome,” she said. “Call me Karra.”

    Her eyes were mostly blue and her hair was mostly blonde, because she had braided the dark stripes into wiry dreadlocks with feathers tied at the ends. The result was both wild and delicate, a dangerous feral creature suspended in that moment where young women are softly, breathtakingly beautiful.


    --

    The chief badguy is a jumble of blue-black hair over dark skin rippling with muscle and entirely scarified with patterns and symbols.

    And when the MC meets him, we get their takes on each other:

    Ulo sidled up to Jarrod. His voice was deeper and slower than Jarrod expected, monotone and calm, with a haunting subtone that reminded Jarrod of Tuvan throat singing. Definitely going for the spooky evil wizard shtick, Jarrod noted.

    Ulo’s first words were, “I thought you’d be bigger.”

    Jarrod looked down and shrugged. “This was the only size they had left.”

    “I trust you’ll join me at my table.”

    Looking into the hood, Jarrod could just make out the dark features, high cheekbones, and shrouded, electric blue eyes. Ulo looked Native American, shamanistic. And a little bit nuts. Okay, yeah. He’s terrifying.

    The sword on his belt had a ring below the crossbar for his finger; a trigger for surgical precision. The handguard was a simple bar in the shape of a D. The sword rode in a silver-inlaid scabbard with black jewels. “They let you in here with that sword?” Jarrod asked.

    “You don’t trust me.”

    “Right,” said Jarrod, motioning toward the door. “Walk ahead of us.”


    --

    So, the interactions sometimes serve as a filter.

    The princess is a blonde woman in white lace and far too many jewels later described as having azure, trusting eyes and a smile like warm cocoa when the MC finally sees her up close.

    Also, Her voice was all projection and patient warmth, with the slow sweetness of caramel. I try to capture this in her speech patterns, as well; the dialogue I write for her I always read aloud to make sure it sounds right when spoken slowly. (I do the same with the antagonist and his intimidating spooky voice.)

    But other than a moment when the MC locks eyes with the princess, a moment as awakening and sweat-inspiring as stepping on a rake, I don't describe her again. I really just go for one good paragraph per character -- and adverbs be damned -- and then leave the rest up to you.

    Anyway, I hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
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  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    As Malik said, appearance has very little to do with plot; the influence is really in the other direction. I know there are writers who like to have a very clear picture of their MC (at least) before beginning, but that ain't me.

    My characters tend to be malleable in their appearance. I do usually get their age about right, because choices about age drive much else. If they have something remarkable physically, that tends to stay put. Gender rarely changes. But much of the rest changes around as the story develops--hair color, height, weight, handedness. Also changeable are major aspects of dress, for I might change the individual's tribe or city. Patterns of dress are fairly significant in my world.

    Any time I think of how appearance can change as one writes a character, the Summoner Geeks bit (courtesy of the Dead Alewives) always comes to mind. Just Google it for a chuckle.

    At the other extreme is Mike Hammer. Mickey Spillane deliberately never describes his main character. I heard him give an interview in which he said he did this so the reader would always imagine himself (I don't think Spillane ever thought women would read his books) in the role of the hero.
     
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  13. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    One more: I personally think that the best image I've yet written is when one of the MC's meets a traveling wizard in a coffee shop.

    Carter eyed Crius up and down clinically, then guessed. “Chris Cornell stars as the moody young Gascon?”
     
  14. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    6'2, 200+lbs, dark gray hair, amber eyes. Looks like a man in his mid 30's.
     
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  15. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Maybe looks aren't important to the plot but they do make up the character as a whole. We're always told to make our characters more relatable, have them be real people. Well, real people look like...someone, right?

    So while I may not describe my characters beyond a few sentences or a paragraph, I see them in my head as I write and knowing what they look like helps me relate their mannerisms to the readers. And those mannerisms give readers a sensation of who that character is.
     
  16. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    If you're hulking barbarian that looks like you can kill a hundred men without breaking a sweat, with a reputation to boot, it may cause people to come to you to take care of a problem. I'd say that has an effect on the plot. It's influencing another character's decision to interact with you.
     
  17. glutton

    glutton Inkling

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    Or if you can't get anyone in your social class to date you because you're a young noblewoman, but are built like a tank and covered in scars since your hobby since you were a kid was hunting monsters lol.
     
  18. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    I have no idea. I know she's female. Between the ages of 19 and 24. Black-skinned But other than that I don't work on what she looks like because me my book appearance is really irrelevant. Blonde hair isn't going to save her arse. I worked more on her flaws, goals, passions and ambitions. Her desire to solve a mystery.

    But we all have a distinct look. Something that makes us stand out. So I focus on those things. My main character is black skinned and that is a HUGE privilege in my world.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2016
  19. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Character appearance is not usually important to the plot. Agreed. Then this happened.

    I have a story about an ogre and a sprite who accidentally steal an island. It's a good story, novelette length, and I am going to self-publish. I am hiring an artist company and am in discussion right now. They wanted to know what the sprite looks like. In truth, I barely describing him, but the company wants to know what color are his wings, what does he wear, skin color, size and build, distinguishing marks, even what weapon he favors.

    Yeesh!

    So, keep that in mind. One day you may publish, and some wretched artist somewhere is going to ask you some awkwardly pointed questions.
     
  20. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I think visually so I have a very good idea what my MCs look like. Hair colour, build etc...
    I will come across an image somewhere,sometime the whole person, more often than not a face, occaisionally just a part of a face. I store those images away [in one big pit of images - that are deliberately not storted] for use later.
    When I come to a story I start assembling the characters in my head and usually a memory of a saved image comes to to the front as being exactly what I need.
    For one recent MC, the character's image is the eyes of The Stranger [Clint Eastwood] in High Plains Drifter. That's it just those thin half closed sharp eyes taking in everything...
     
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