As I continue to edit (or try to edit) “The Esclavan Abductions,” I got to thinking about character appearance. How important is it? How much does its importance vary from genre to genre?
Do YOU generally care what a character looks like? Whether or not you get a full, detailed description of a character’s appearance?
I don’t read romance, so this could be off base, but I’d have to think what a character looks like is much more important in romance than in other genres…. I’ve even read blog posts lambasting tropes of physical appearance and tirading against description stereotypes in romance.
If I’m wrong there, feel free to share your thoughts about this. It could be an interesting discussion! (Just be respectful of everyone, please).
THIS IS ON MY MIND RIGHT NOW THANKS TO ONE CHARACTER IN PARTICULAR
I’ve been thinking about character appearance because of one of the two protagonists in my WIP: sorcerer Zate Polve.
Zate’s parents feature in one of my previous books.
- His father has muddy brown hair and dark eyes and moderate acne as a young adult.
- His mother is auburn-haired. I picture her as a redhead.
While writing the first draft I described Zate as having auburn hair in the first scene, as well as his father’s acne issues. He’s got some bulk to him but not too much.
Here’s where it gets weird…. Has anyone else during edits pictured a character differently than what you described him to look like? Cause I have!!!
Whenever I picture Zate mentally I see:
- brown hair, like his dad. Kind of wavy. Cropped a bit shorter than all the nobles he works for, who tie their hair back.
- Greenish eyes.
- I don’t see acne, at least not anything I would take note of.
- He kind of suffers from what I describe as “resting jerk face” but he’s not a jerk at heart. A bit rough around the edges, but not cruel and not selfish.
I find the situation really, really odd. Why in the world do I picture Zate differently than I described him to begin with? Have I simply gotten to know him better, and I see now who he was always meant to be?
I could change the descriptions throughout the work to match how I view Zate now. I very well might end up doing that. What’s interesting is that I’ve never changed a character in a finished draft that substantially before.
I tend to edit the situation a character is in rather than change the character. (I’ve written a post about that).
Still, I’m intrigued by the thought of being flexible in my writing process and doing something new for me: completely changing the way I described a character. Maybe Zate has always looked his not-so-dear ole dad!
On the other hand, it could also be fun (and worthwhile) to try to reconcile my inner view of the character with the way I first laid him out on the page.
I feel as though I described Zate with red hair for a reason, right? I imagined him looking like his mother for a reason. I must have.
Zate turns out to be a really cool character. He does some heroic and crazy stuff. Even badass stuff. For some reason that I don’t feel that my original description of his and his physique matches that somehow.
Which is strange. I don’t understand why that is. There is absolutely no reason someone with reddish hair couldn’t be a really awesome sorcerer, right? Of course not!
In some ways I feel that appearance is pretty arbitrary, but in others, I suspect I have gotten this totally arbitrary and meaningless thing wrong.
Yeah. Paradox. Appearance doesn’t really matter…. And yet, it does.
So, what do you guys think about this topic? Have you ever ended up picturing a character differently than you pictured him or her at the start? Do you think something as minor as a character’s hair color or eye color (if those aren’t related to a specific ethnic heritage that matters for the character) are big deals???
I hope this post is somewhat thought-provoking, because it’s really got me reassessing things and contemplating whether or why appearance matters (in fiction).
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