Filed under: Character
Often seen in: role-playing; general collaborative
In a lot of role-playing, both in the bio and in the prose itself, we see:
She had long, midnight-coloured hair and starlight-blue eyes.
This might be pretty cool description, but it is both overwriting and telling. Even in fantasy, as readers, we want to see/read the every-day-man stumbling into and upon the amazing plot developments, not the already-pretty-powerful-guy doing his best to tell everybody else what they should do.
A character (especially a main one) needs to be relatable, not only in personality and perils, but also in appearance, something which some writers are quick to forget. Those rich people in The Hunger Games might have had blue, pink and whatever coloured hair, but Katniss and Peeta were pretty ordinary in their looks. (Please note that I’ve neither read nor seen The Hunger Games, so this is all estimation from posters and fan-stuffs!)
Compare this paragraph with the italicised one above:
It was not irritating enough that Artemis had been given the name of a goddess, but to portray that stereotypical black-haired-blue-eyed mural, too, just added embarrassment to whole situation. She couldn't help admitting, though, that there was something nice about always having sleek hair.
I'll admit that it's not a great second example, but in the second, we get to understand Artemis a bit more; we can get to 'hear' her opinion about how she looks, rather than just being directed to her with a big arrow indicating an omniscient writer's presence. After all, a character could boast her hair is midnight or she could just as easily cry that it's 'coal'. One man's trash is another's treasure.
Too, we’re given a sense of place with the word ‘mural’ instead of ‘picture’, and this will come in handy when we go on to talk about revealing a character by the way they act in a room, rather than just as static beings.
Often, writers of role-plays want to make sure that everyone knows what their character(s) look(s) like in the first chapter, so there is much description of the first paragraph sort. Instead, it’s good to consider what a character has been told about themselves (after all, they can’t know what they look like at certain moments – and please don’t include a mirror in the scene. It’s way too cliché.) In better role-plays I have read, action is first, and the description comes not from the author themselves, but from another character’s author. That way, unless this character is overblown by the ‘beauty’ of the other character – remember, stories are meant to be realistic, and that rarely happens in real life, even between lovers – they are more likely to describe what they see as a character with a personality, than an author with a pet.