Credit to Harcloniter for this wonderful depiction of my characters from the first two books in The Kingdoms of Blood series. As you can see, I love getting art of my characters. It’s one of the most thrilling things ever. But lately, people have been complaining about how authors describe a bit too much about their characters, and I have to flat out disagree.
As a reader and writer, to me, it is imperative to build a picture. I highly enjoy when an author shares with me as much information as they can about how a character looks, it puts a face to them. I understand what I’m saying is an unpopular opinion of course, but I’m going to say it anyway. When an author gets references or art done of their characters, I’m thrilled. It brings me joy, screw “leave it to imagination”. I’m going to imagine the settings they build, which should be described too.
Though if an author doesn’t go into great detail about how their characters look, that’s alright too. At that point I don’t dislike the writing at all, it works just as well as abundantly describing how one looks. It’s because there’s strengths and weaknesses to both ways of putting it. On one hand, you give your reader less elbow room if you over describe a character. On the other, you can help build a better picture. In the end, it’s all up to reader preference.
I’ve seen some interesting posts about skin colors as well. “How come those with pale skin aren’t described in foods?” And I got to thinking. Do I not do that as well? “Why specifically is one race pointed out whereas one isn’t?Such someone white not being stated in the writing but other skin colors are?” Another very good point. Those two questions made me consider my own writing.
Now, with every character I describe, I go with “white/pale skin, dark skin, or tan skin”. This helps depict my characters, and I generally avoid location on the Earth from which they came just because I like to leave that open ended. Though there’s exceptions to that rule, such as with Aki, my kitsune from Japan. Also, since currently most settings I’m writing in involves the United States, you can’t automatically assume their origin based on looking at them regardless of skin color.
With hair, I always describe it, even for side characters you’ll never see again. I prioritize that beyond skin color for some reason, and no I don’t know why. Generally if I don’t give more than hair color for one of my characters, they likely aren’t going to be playing a major part in the story further than where you’re seeing them.
Now about those foods—that one gave me a laugh and was a good point. So for every “had skin like chocolate/coffee”, I remember to add in “had skin like vanilla or white chocolate.” Now we can think of EVERYONE like food! Which makes sense, really, because I tend to write vampires. To them, indeed most people are food.
But yeah, I’ve been seeing a number of complaints about scenes or characters being described in great detail, and I need to say that I just disagree. I love it when an author can paint a beautiful picture with words. I don’t get bored with rich description like quite a few people do, and wish I could apply it better to my own writing.
3 thoughts on “To Describe or Not To Describe”
Love the artwork of the redhead–I’m a sucker for redheaded female characters.
As for descriptions, I’m of the opinion that any side of the argument could be taken to the extreme. No description at all can be incredibly bland, but I also want to see some of the character’s personality before being given a ton of details. One or two things to get the image started, and then others woven in organically, if that makes sense? I particularly like being given just a couple very distinctive pieces of description that also tell me something about the character’s personality or status. Things like posture, what shoes they’re wearing, that sort of thing. But everyone has different preferences, both authors and readers, of course.
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Ah the redhead is Sambuca, she’s the poster child of my series! Lots of fun ^^ Anyway, yeah I agree, you’re right. There’s overdoing it, and there’s underdoing it. That does make a lot of sense though, yes; a description following a piece of dialogue could be fairly useful.
One issue I have is describing the narrator, like if I’m writing in first person, it gets difficult to figure out where. Somehow I manage to find a way around that, though!
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Yeah that’s always a tricky one. I don’t often use a first person narrator, but when I do, it’s hard to figure out a way to throw their appearance or notable features in without it feeling cliche.
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