What DO you look like?

Okay, I’ll ‘fess up – this post is largely an excuse to show off my new cover, but there is a point to it, too.

Cover image for The Last Gatekeeper

Isn’t it just GORGEOUS???

I used a silhouette on my cover because I didn’t want to decree what my heroine looked like (and I’m not entirely sure, to be honest) and my point of discussion today is the appearance of characters, and how much description they need.

When The Last Gatekeeper was being edited, I was told I needed to give more description in order for readers to be able to picture her (my heroine had brown eyes and long hair worn in a ponytail – nothing else was mentioned).  I’d been vague deliberately because one of my bugbears when reading is description of main characters for two reasons:

1. It’s generally woefully done and clunkily, brakes-on-the-action obvious – especially in first person (which The Last Gatekeeper is), because there’ll be some dreadful mirror or window-becomes-mirror scene where the heroine inspects herself as though she doesn’t know what she looks like, and the description itself is either vain (“I just loved my glossy, golden hair”), or insecure (“Oh, why couldn’t my hair be glossy gold like my gorgeous bff instead of looking like frizzy mud, poor me.”).

and 2. Because I’m a reader, not a viewer. I’m making up my own pictures in my head and if your visuals clash with mine, that’s going to pull me out of the story, too. When I read, I want to be so close to the character that I become them for the duration of the book, so my opinion is that a bit of vagueness is a good thing to allow the reader and the character to blur a little. So long as it’s not something vital to the plot you can trust your reader to fill in the blanks because that’s what readers do.

What do you think – do you like plenty of description, or do you skip physical details like me?

(P.S. I added hair colour to my heroine’s description, but I hope it’s hard to spot and not too clunky!)

 

About katyhaye

Katy Haye writes fast-paced fantasy novels for YA readers and is fascinated by the science of stories.
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2 Responses to What DO you look like?

  1. Wendy says:

    I agree. I don’t use much description – hair, eyes, general body shape, perhaps. I think we picture people how we want them to be. My son, only the other day, told me that however his hero is described in his books, he pictures them with brown hair and blue eyes, (like him, I guess).

    Like

    • katyhaye says:

      Yes! I’m just the same. Characters in my head when I read are about my height and build and colouring unless they have to be otherwise – and I think that’s a shorthand so I can focus on what they’re doing, rather than having to hold a physical description in my head.

      Like

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