Developing Your Character’s Appearance

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I find it helpful to search online or through magazines to find inspiration for how I want my character to look.  Usually, I will take a screenshot or a clipping and paste it with my character’s arc to use as a reference when I am trying to describe how they look.  When you describe your character, do so like you are describing a living person.

For example, here is a description of Evander from Forgotten, book three of the Sanctorian Series:

Evander’s brown hair and grey eyes are the same color as Lyla’s.  He is taller than her but fares a good inch shorter than me.  From the way he carries himself, I can tell that he can easily handle his own in combat.  His wide shoulders and muscular build suggests he has not been idle after his assumed death.

From the description above, you can see a tall, muscular, brown-haired man with grey-green eyes.  Now what would happen if four chapters after this description was written, Evander was described as having jet black hair with dark brown eyes?  For one, it is not consistent with the first description.  For two, the reader has already formed an image of the character in their mind.  The relationship built between the reader and the character will have changed and the reader may lose interest in the story.  This is why it important to know your character before you begin to write them into your story.

Things to consider

  • Hair color
  • Eye color
  • Skin type
  • Muscular build/frame
  • Are there any distinguishing marks that will make your character stand out? Any tattoos or scars?  Has your character been disfigured in some way?
  • Fashion: Does your character like to dress a certain way? Do they wear comfortable clothes at a certain time of the day?  Do they wear any jewelry that would a special meaning to them?

There are a thousand different ways to describe your character.  Make sure to keep notes to maintain consistency throughout your storyline.  It is a good idea to go back through your notes before you edit your story to double check for consistency.

Treat your character as you would a real person.  Their personality, their physical appearance, and their mental stability are important pieces to growing their relationship with your reader.

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