Ok, ok, let me expand. I've never had any trouble picturing your characters. I don't know if you've specifically done much physical description, but if you did, it might just get in the way of my mental picture. I'm a big believer in minimal physical description, let the reader use their imagination and fill in their own pictures. (Helps them to identify with a character.) You have always seemed to use appropriate description, IMHO.
No, madam. Sometimes stories are best when there isn't much a whole lot about the main -- just hints of appearance. This allows the majority of readers to adapt the character to their own personal view.
However, there can be flaw by doing that. If at some very late point in the story you suddenly make mention of a character's appearance that you've neglected to do earlier, you will undoubtedly throw off readers.
It's one of those things. Kinda like writing screenplays. You never really describe a character except generally. This lets any actor fill the role, pretty much.
[This message has been edited by HSO (edited August 11, 2004).]
I prefer that the writer not describe the character. Tell me how the character reacts to some situation or what they think, and that tells me the character's "character". Those are the kinds of characters worth reading about.
Thanks for posting about this. I don't think I've read any of your submissions (yet), unless you count Trapped in Dallas, so I can't comment on your writing. However I often wonder how much character description I need in my own stories. Sometimes it feels right, other times I get bored with myself. I actually went into my novel WIP and deleted all physical description and then added back some of it in bits and pieces.
I try to think of stories I've read and liked to see how the author "did it", but most times I can't think of anything, in fact I usually have to search for character descriptions because the masters all make it appear so seemless.
Ack! [Me pulling hair out, dressing in white and preparing to bounce around a rubber room.]
I'm not a big believer in long descriptions of people. (I usually can't remember them when I read them anyway.)
For me, it's enough to know that Joe has a beard, Roger wears glasses with shiny silver frames and Sally is short. But unless the individual's looks are integral (ugly duckling being transformed)it actually is a hindrance to me to get too much detail.
I don't want to know that the hero is twenty, with flowing blonde hair, rippled muscles and perfect teeth. Why? Because I'm selfish. When I read, I want to be the hero. I want to see myself in that spot, and despite the fact that you guys may think of me as a twenty something, rippled muscled, blonde haired, perfect toothed hero, I regretfully must report that I am not. (Alas, I was at one time, but sadly, tootsie rolls are my downfall).
So, if there's too much description, then I either have to ignore it, or give up the fantasy of being the hero. (Some fantasies are too much of a stretch, even for me.)
But, your question is: do YOU do enough or not enough. I'd have to say you do just about right. I've had no problem with any of your stories so far. When it's important to know some physical feature, you've told me.
No. Let me tell you what Salvador looks like. He's mid forties, about 5'10", dark hair with widow's peaks, but not too high, his complexion is dark-ish (Mediterranean olive maybe), he wears a light gray or light tan suit with a faint plaid pattern to it, the suit is kinda rumpled since he travels a lot, he might keep a pair of specs in his pocket, he might have a bit of a middle but not much, he's pretty average build, he has a slightly roman nose, five-o-clock shadow...
I could go on.
In other words, Mary, the little description you provide certainly paints a clear picture for me (my interpretation of course, but what does it matter?) of Salvador.
Thanks folks. It wasn't a particular story that prompted that question (though I loved Dakota's description of Salvador) but I've gotten more than one review asking for more character description. I figured; one, I'll ignore; two, makes me go Hmm...; three is a trend.
I'm also a big fan of minimal descriptions so that I can be the hero. The exceptions are when a character enters the room and has such an impact on the POV character that all action stops for a word picture. Even then, I prefer descriptions that give me insight into the character rather than a collection of tags that merely tell me what they look like.
MR: Never once have I scratched my head, wondering if the current character [of yours] I was reading was male or female; a dog, an alien or a human; black, white, pink, purple, or green; alive, dead or in between. Never once have I been bored by any character description that you have included.
I'd say that pretty well hits it right in that sweet spot in between.
I find a lot of my characters start to sound the same. I seem to have several blonde hair, blue eyed, 20-something women; men with short black/brown hair; and older gentlemen with silvery hair and eyes the colour of steel. (For some reason I don't have very many older women, hmmm, I never noticed that). The main reason is that I like to base my physical character models on people around me, kinda wierd though.
I like the idea of trying to leave it as open as possible as long I can still communicate that there is a difference between characters. i.e. Two men may have the same basic attributes but if I say one is a bookish scientist while the other is an Inter-Galactic Football star, it won't matter if they both have short dark hair with brown eyes.
Mary, as long as readers aren't confused about your characters then, it doesn't matter if you have plenty of description or just little teasers.