character descriptions in fiction

More of a train of thought than a respectable blog entry …

How wonderful would it be to do a graphic novel, or to illustrate your own novel Victorian – style?

a woman in a veil painted in inks

a woman in a veil I painted in inks today

This woman came out looking a little like a stylised me. The digital camera was quite decided about it. Although it’s not a digital camera that has had much experience in facial recognition. I was just having fun painting in inks and started to think about the concept of illustrating my stories. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. Will it just be one of those projects I think about?

It started me thinking about the way I describe my characters through words. In a way I like to leave them quite loosely drawn visually. Readers can do what they like with them, to a certain degree. I guess if you’re going to describe them in detail you’d better do it pretty early on. Preferably not by having them lengthily consider themselves in a mirror or describe themselves as a Harrison Ford type (yes, I’m looking at you, Dan Brown). Oh, or inserted out of the blue: Katy Gray, green-eyed, svelte attorney, walked briskly down the street.

But there’s nothing more unsettling than having loosely described characters who are suddenly described really fully towards the end of the book. You think, NO! That’s not at all what he looks like! Shall I respect the author here, or just stubbornly stick with my own version?? I sometimes end up with a weird fusion.

Well, I guess you can’t be more descriptive than by adding pictures, but maybe we’d all miss the creative element as readers? One element of which, let’s not pretend to be too highbrow here, is making at least one character extremely dishy (according to our own standards).

Ooh, and here’s a link (as a postscript). It explains that a zombie dies every time you use the mirror description technique and gives some suggestions on other approaches: http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/2010/04/writers-bane-describing-characters.html

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