character description in the fic
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  1. #1

    Default character description in the fic

    So, as anyone who's read any good work of fiction, the author gives a fitting description as to a character's appearance so you can picture what they'd look like whenever a new important character appears. I'm not really good at that part, but I am good at giving basic descriptions in the profiles for them. Any tips for me?

  2. #2
    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: character description in the fic

    I can lend you a couple of tips on the matter of character description. :)

    Firstly, NEVER go overboard with the details and stuff. That just clutters the story and stalls its continuation. It can be rather boring too. So you want to keep it at a reasonable length. Even just a few details is fine in some cases as well.

    Second, try not to be too vague. For example, saying a character is a brown haired boy with blue jeans, and a green shirt. Many characters could fit this description. You want to show your readers a much more unique appearance for the character.

    Here's an example of one of my character descriptions, though it's actually for two different characters. Just in case you wouldn't mind looking at one. lol



    EDIT: Erg, looks like I should've omitted "simple light purple" and changed the "a" before it to "an." You don't want to repeat the same words in one sentence. lol This one's kinda old, to be honest. XD

  3. #3

    Default Re: character description in the fic

    That should help some. Thanks.

  4. #4
    Your mind is a world AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: character description in the fic

    My rule of thumb is that you're allowed one shot at describing characters outright when they first appear. Describe one or two of the most obvious traits of their appearance before they even get introduced by their name. When doing this first-time description, choose the traits that stand out, as Kelleo said. For example, if the character is a boy with short dark hair, brown eyes, average complexion, and medium height and weight, don't even bother mentioning those things (except for maybe the hair color, as that's often what we first notice when looking at a person). Tell the reader only the exceptional things about the character at first. One side-benefit of this is the ability to refer to the character by description rather than name (e.g. "the bearded man" or "the tall woman"), which is especially useful when your POV character doesn't know this newcomer's name.

    After this two trait introduction, you can start slipping in more minor bits of description as the POV character notices them. This is important to the flow of the story. If a male POV character (first person or otherwise) sees a smoking hot female character, he's going to analyze the hell out of her, so don't be afraid to go a little more in depth. If the same POV character is meeting up with an old friend for the first time in the story, it will be jarring to give any sort of description past the introductory stuff. In that case, give description as it comes. For example, the POV character is only going to mention his friend's eye color if he's looking into his friend's eyes.

    In short, avoid long blocks of description. Instead, space it out over time. The exception to this is like the example Kelleo gave: if the character in question is particularly eccentric or exceptional, then it might be beneficial to provide a few sentences in description of their striking appearance. Like if you saw a Pokemon trainer in Pallet Town, do what I said above. If you saw a zombie-pirate-ninja in Pallet Town, describe the hell out of it.

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    Brock's Pikachu LightningTopaz's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: character description in the fic

    The thing I often tell new writers is "Pretend I'm not familiar with Pokemon/other fandom of choice--how would you describe the characters to me?

    On the other side of the coin, it's not a good idea to take three pages to describe a piece of grass
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    Stray Dog Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: character description in the fic

    Well I usually describe hair, eyes, skin and traits once I introduce a character, it makes it quicker for me cause then I can keep going without worrying about leaving anything behind, though it is recommended for you to mention some of their simple traits from time to time just so that people can remember if they miss it. Clothes are something that's optional to describe unless it's your character's main attire, but if your characters changes clothes often then it'll just get annoying so that's optional for you.

    Like everyone said, you shouldn't overdo it when it comes to describing appearance, after all you have to leave something for the imagination as well.

  7. #7
    commie bastard. an illegible mess.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: character description in the fic

    though detail for your main character is always necessary in any story, the key is to not go too overboard. going overboard on detail for your character is a little tedious to read for readers and can get your character labeled as a mary-sue/gary-stu (sometimes not always the case if you equally balance out the descriptions of other supporting characters with your main character; still it's best to go with not a lot of detail, but enough to get your point across and create a picture of what your character looks like in someone's mind).

    when i write description, i write it usually through action, such as, "he gazed fondly upon the girl, his ocean blue eyes unwavering" or "he took off his bright red sweater", etc.

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    Hex Mistress NoirGrimoir's Avatar
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    Default Re: character description in the fic

    As others have said, describe the most obvious and most unique things about the person when they first appear, and anything else you can slip in later as you go along. Another thing is traits which are indicative of personality or culture or interests of the character are worth noting, for instance the character's expression (if they are smiling, we can guess they are a happy or optimistic person, or if they have a bland expression they might be a downer), if they have an identifiable clothing style (if they have very fashionable clothing, they might be a bit vain, or if their clothes are really wrinkled, they might be lazy or oblivious), or physical traits that indicate they are a particular ethnicity or from a particular culture (crosses or religious paraphernalia can indicate something about their beliefs and morals, if they are of a particular ethnicity it suggests something about their upbringing and culture).

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  9. #9

    Default Re: character description in the fic

    I can offer more advice where POV is concerned. There's a big difference with how you describe in third person and first person. In first person, you can only describe the POV character at times when they are thinking about their appearance, like when they are looking in a mirror for example. This is because it's first person, using I. You are inside someone's head, and people don't think like that. People don't randomly describe themselves. Doing so points makes first person POV even more artificial and fake then it already is.

    In third person, you don't have that type of restriction. Also, when you describe in first person, or really, write anything in first person, the description needs to be in the words of the character, not you. They can't use words that you know they would never use or even have in their vocabulary. Everything is filtered through their perception of life.

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    Default Re: character description in the fic

    I think AetherX hit most of the important points when it came to describing characters, and most of the other people here did a good job explaining that only the important features of a character really warrant description.

    But I noticed that a lot of comments here are about characters the POV character would have just met: characters your POV character is familiar with require a different approach. If you're using a limited POV, don't bring up things that your viewpoint character would notice every day, at least not up front. This doesn't mean that they can't be mentioned at all, just that you need to take a different approach to describing them than devoting an entire paragraph. Actually, this works for a lot of different characters, not just the ones your POV character knows already.

    A good way to do this is to present unusual traits your character has as if your viewpoint character has seen them a million times and it's nothing to really take note of. For a more personal example I used:

    Sibyl had taken off her legs while Jasper was opening the undersink cabinet.
    It feels pretty natural once you get the hang of it, and also doesn't run the risk of stalling the narrative.

    Working it into the plot or interactions with other characters is also a thing you can do. For instance, let's say a character of yours is ridiculously strong and muscular. But they're someone close to your viewpoint character, such as a family member or love interest, so this is something your POV character wouldn't even really notice anymore. Don't mention it plainly in text, but drop hints now and then that would suggest his physique to a reader, such as having him being the only one able to lift heavy objects or other characters being intimidated by his presence.

    Last bit of advice I'd use is to not go overboard in describing Pokemon that are just regular Pokemon, without any distinguishing features. Going into detail about describing creatures is good if you're writing original fantasy, but not good if you're doing fanfic, since most people reading Pokemon fanfiction are going to be familiar with Pokemon already.

    For example, saying "John let a small, orange porcine creature out of its ball" is a lot more of a pain than "John let his Tepig out of its ball", at least if everyone in the story already knows what a Tepig is.

  11. #11
    Hyping over Steven Stone Kyriaki's Avatar
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    Default Re: character description in the fic

    If it's a fanfic where everyone knows the character (example: Misty), I don't use descriptions because the readers can easily imagine how the character looks like.

  12. #12
    Stray Dog Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: character description in the fic

    You shouldn't assume that the reader knows who it is, true Misty is one of the characters that are well known but you should still describe her so that people would get a chance to guess who it is before her name is first mentioned, otherwise it ruins the flow of the story.

  13. #13

    Default Re: character description in the fic

    ^That's a good point. I never thought of that.

  14. #14
    Let's get funky! Gama's Avatar Former Head Administrator
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    Default Re: character description in the fic

    The Writing Academy is great for questions like this.

    Legacy wrote something really good on this some time ago. It's about description in general but can be applied really well to character description specifically. Here is the link!

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