Thursday, July 15, 2010

Physical description is not a dirty word

I've noticed that a lot of novels are starting to shy away from description, particularly in fantasy. They want to avoid the 'He was tall and slender with long black hair pulled into a pony tail and piercing grey eyes'. That's an understandable desire. However, you don't HAVE to describe people like that. People try to portray either their ideal or real selves through what they wear, how they style their hair, their make-up, and their posturing. Other people take what they look like and then make their own assumptions based on that.

Crime novels, in particular, have learned the art of describing personality through appearance, often giving a double whammy of describing both the POV and the described person at the same time.

Her eyes, on any other woman, would have been considered a warm brown. Somehow, set in her weathered face, surrounded by frown lines and lips pulled thin through years of disapproval, those eyes had all the warmth of a long-dead corpse left out in the sun.

Okay, that description is a fairly colorful one, but you get the point. Imagine that the POV is describing his mother ... his mentor ... his nemesis ... the Queen. It puts twists on each one of them. It describes the relationship, his assumptions, and a bit about the personality of the other character.

I like personal description. They build character. Don't fear it. Do find your own spin on it.


  1. I agree. I think it's nice when you have enough to build a picture but leaves you some room for your imagination as well. I want to be given SOMETHING.

  2. There's also nothing better than an evocative phrase that really makes you picture the scene. Often it's just one line ... the perfect line.