The Appearance of Your Character: the Devil Is in the Detail

Elsa Frozen Poster

Prepare to relate to this post on the highest level possible. You walk down the street minding your own business. Nothing particular happening in the flow of your thoughts. Just usual nonsense that your brain is struggling to deal with on a daily basis. The weather is absolutely awesome and your mood is so on point. All in all a good day. Then this happens…

A disaster, a terrible catastrophe that you are going to keep in mind for such a long time. You are definitely not getting over it anytime soon. So, you are walking and you are passing by a person. His face seems familiar to you. What if it`s Ryan Gosling? No, it`s not possible.

You only got a glimpse of a certain feature of that person`s face and now it`s stuck in your head. You`re approaching that human being who you think you know, but can`t remember for sure. Should I say hi? I should probably say hi.

Then your conscience starts picking you with a needle called doubt after you passed that person and didn`t greet him. ‘I definitely know him from somewhere, so now I`m just rude. On the other hand, what if I started waving to a stranger? He would think I`m crazy and nobody wants that’.

People should experience the same feeling towards your characters in stories. It should seem to them that they have seen those people somewhere already and if they come across similar appearance features in other books, the memory about your protagonists will be surfacing.

Virtual Plastic Surgery for a Character

Plastic Surgery

It`s hard for a human brain to picture a face of another person if they`ve never seen him/her. When we dream, for example, our mind can`t come up with an image of a person, it will simply use the patterns of facial features which have been already placed in your head.

The detailed description of your characters` appearance will give the readers much wider opportunities to get to the depth of the story. Facial expressions, eye color, hair style – it all matters in terms of impressive narration.

When the picture comes up in the mind of your audience, they start feeling like they are reading a story about the actual people, not just about some made-up characters. It`s all hidden in details of describing the protagonists and antagonists of your story.

Physiognomy? Well, It Depends…

You must have heard about the physiognomy. This is a conception of the connection between people`s faces and their characters. Though official science doesn`t recognize physiognomy as the real deal, there are a lot of people out there who believe in it.

It`s been proven that this conception can`t be applied in real life. I`ve heard a ridiculous theory that all natural-born leaders have big protruding ears. It was explained that they perceive more information from the surrounding world, so they can analyze the situations better. Wow, I`m just speechless. So, is there a chance I can become a President after going through the ears augmentation?

Yes, this is not official science, but the stereotypes which live in our heads have been developing its influence since the dawn of time. It`s thought that people with high foreheads are smarter. Now all teenage girls who have some insecurities about their high foreheads and who have been growing bangs since like forever are cheering with applause. So, an insightful and bright character usually has that distinguishing feature.

‘You`ve Got That James Dean Daydream Look in Your Eyes’

Small eyes are often associated with guile and trickery. Much to my surprise, it appeared that small eyes are seen as “pig eyes”. First, these are cute animals if you don`t stare at them right in the eye. Why would you gaze at a pig anyway?

Big eyes usually serve as a symbol of purity, honesty and decent intentions. Remember how Alexander Duma described the noble female characters in “The Count of Monte Cristo”? Honorable women would always have the big eyes. However, sometimes the French author would describe naïve young girls with big wide open eyes.

As they say, eyes are the window to the soul, so the bigger the eyes, the wider the soul. Kind of. If you want to emphasize on eyes, as a lot of authors do, you might want to consider describing its shape, color and the distance between them.

Characters with dark eyes are usually seen as loyal and reliable. Edmond Dantès according to Duma, had almost black eyes, that`s why he had such a mysterious piercing glance. And he used to mesmerize absolutely anyone with that charm, by the way.

Blue eyes are baby eyes, so childish or eccentric people often carry that feature in various stories. According to Shakespeare, green eyes are the irises of jealous people. There is even a “green-eyed monster” reference in his “Othello”. Green eyes are usually associated with wisdom and persistence.

Do You Smell That?

Disney Witch

Noses are another interesting and important part of the description of your character. There are so many variations of them! People with snub noses are seen as easy-going, enthusiastic and sometimes, tend not to take things seriously even when they should.

Aquiline noses are the possession of determined and brave people. They may look stubborn, but when we talk about the characters in your story, the owners of those noses are usually the “troubleshooters”. However, if this feature is intentionally exaggerated, then the character will look like a mean person. Just remember the stepsister from the Cinderella fairy tale.

Those with huge nostrils are people with an extra level of curiosity and for some non-apparent reason (according to psychological perception) they are seen as good companions. There is your logic, people? What does this feature even have to do with it? But, again, these are just suggestions for the subconscious of your audience, not the real science.

Go with Anything, Except Dreadlocks

I won`t even start on a topic that blonde people are seen as, well, you know it without me. You have two variants here actually. Follow the stereotypical pattern or break the chains of all these trapped light-headed people.

Long hair is the symbol of femininity. If you don`t want to present your character as a vulnerable lady, please don`t make Rapunzel out of her. The social research has shown that the phrase “the thin hair” which was a distinguishing feature of a certain character caused nothing but antipathy towards the hero of a story. People with thick hair are associated with health, courage and even kindness. So, don`t miss on that detail!

Steeple-Height May Be Good for a Character

Another absolutely crucial appearance feature is height. Low people are associated with submission and pettiness. The taller the person is the better his ego is developing. Not my words! Just psychologically speaking.

Therefore, in a description like “he could barely walk into a room without touching the door frame”, you may recognize a self-confident, proud-spirited or even an arrogant person. It`s sad to admit but low and overweight people in stories mostly play the role of sidekicks and treacherous ones.

No matter how often we remind ourselves that appearance is just a wrap of a human soul, we still are making the impression of another person by their looks. You can use these tips to make a better connection with your audience, so they would understand the characters better, but remember that it doesn`t really work in real life.

This article was written by Ian

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