My Unique Views on Describing Characters
Updated: Sep 14
I am not like many readers when it comes to reading physical descriptions of characters in books. A lot of readers dislike the author telling them what the characters look like. They want to picture the characters their ways. In fact, some readers rebel against what the authors say in describing the characters.
However, my views are different. I’ve been acknowledging that the characters in books are, indeed, somebody else’s creations. So I think it’s silly for me to get upset if a character doesn’t look the way I want. I support character descriptions greatly. I like to describe my book’s characters and encourage other writers to do so. In fact, I cannot really picture a character or keep a consistent image of him or her in my head unless they’re described with at least one trait. Otherwise, they don’t feel real enough to me.
I also wondered why people are accepting of character appearances on movies, TV shows, comics, and more, but not novels. That is because novels are not visual, so the idea is to use your mind to visualize the images. But I see it as the same. Visual works and non-visual are someone else’s creations for my entertainment.
Just because novels don’t have pictures in them (with the exception of chapter books or graphic novels), that doesn’t mean the characters become mine to own. If I were to declare their physical appearance and promote that, I could get sued. But that’s a whole different topic.
Because the author created the characters, I believe they have every right to tell me, as the reader, what the characters look like with whatever descriptive traits they want—as long as it’s not too many (because that’s too much to remember and bogs down the narrative-up to a few are good enough) or offensive (you can figure that out).
But other than that, I accept descriptions of any trait. What I usually describe is a character’s hair and one or two other key features (i.e. glasses or beards). I never do eye color, because there are just too few choices, in my opinion. I also don’t do nose shapes or face shapes.
You can continue to approach character descriptions your way. This is just how I view them.