Character Description

Is it just me? Or is there a growing trend with authors not describing the characters in their stories? On the rare occasion that I am not busy watching my energetic 15 month old son, or working on my next book, I like to sit back and read a good story. But it’s hard to get into it when the lead or, in some cases, any and all characters are not described to the reader at all except to confirm what sex they are.

One story I tried to read (not giving names) did not have any description of the characters at all. The only thing I had to go by was their name or the actions “he” or “she” took. Even when the writer gave his/her self the perfect opportunity to put some detail into the lead, they did not. Except for a wound that the lead received during a battle, nothing else was given. No description of the character’s hair, how long or short it was, what color. No eye color, or the tone of their skin. Nothing. Only thing I had to go on was that the lead was female, and her name (which I will not post). The rest of the characters, the only thing the reader had to go by for them was their name, nothing else. And that is the reason I could not finish reading that story. I can’t sit back and enjoy a book if all I’m picturing is a question mark running around going on adventures etc etc. Maybe there are some people that don’t see this as an issue, but to me, its just annoying plain and simple.

If you describe the scene, the area that the character is in well enough to allow the reader to “see” it, why not do the same for the characters in the story? I’m so used to describing my characters in my writing, that I can’t get past it if someone else does not.

Maybe they were too caught up in the moment when they wrote the scene out? I catch myself doing that to where my mind is working faster than my fingers can type.

Or is it maybe because the writer is rushing to get their story out? Maybe, maybe not.

Character description, in my opinion, is very important. What would grab and hold your interest more? If you read about about a character named Jane Doe who for example: Looking into the vanity mirror, Jane feathered her hair lightly, eyes narrowed as she pursed her lips thoughtfully as she struggled to decide what to do with it.

Or would you rather read this: Looking into the vanity mirror, Jane feathered her blonde shoulder length hair lightly, blue eyes narrowed as she pursed her full pink lips thoughtfully as she struggled to decide what to do with it.

Notice the difference? With just a few additional words the image of what you picture Jane looking like changes drastically.

But again, this is just my opinion. How you write is entirely up to you.

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3 comments

  1. I’ve come across this numerous times and never thought much about it until I was reading a high action thriller with a kick ass heroine. Physical description and attributes were left out entirely so I thought, ok, the author wants to leave completely up to reader interpretation, and through the visualized and highly described setting I built up an image of what she should look like. Toward the end the author finally gave appearance clues and it completely clashed with my expectations. It seemed so much of a mismatch that the rest of the storyline with her seemed so out of place. I can’t figure out if it’s done on purpose or an omission.

  2. I personally think the author leaves the description out on purpose. Especially when they have one of those plain Jane book covers. For instance, just a rose. Why? I can only try to surmise that they don’t want to actually reveal the attributes that I myself crave. Okay, I’ll just say it, I think they don’t want to concentrate on a specific race or nationality. I like to build my own character off the authors description. I need/want that when I’m reading. Some readers will rebuke that statement; “if they’re a good author you don’t need those descriptive adjectives.”. I love it. I want to hear how his hazel eyes swelled with tears of joy as he gazed into her blue ones. Or his blonde hair was just long enough to curl around his ears and run your fingers through. You’re right in my opinion. It makes a huge difference.

    1. To each their own I suppose…

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