Posted on December 25, 2012 with 2,234 notes. Tagged with Writing tips, .
How to Describe a Character’s Looks Well
Start with your character’s face shape. This is important because a person’s face gives a strong and immediate impression of their personality. Is it heart-shaped with a wide forehead and a pointed chin? Is it square with a jaw-line that could chisel granite? Which of these faces might you describe as playful and which might you describe as rugged? As you continue to describe your character, keep in mind that people definitely associate certain personality traits with certain features.
Describe your character’s bone structure. In particular, we draw many conclusions from a person’s bone structure. High, wide cheekbones can give the impression of apple cheeks and, thus, a lingering smile. Whereas a “weak” chin is associated with passivity, a prominent chin is described as “determined” and might suggest that someone is inclined to keep their chin up. Wide-set eyes are found on most baby animals and have become associated with innocence, whereas deep-set eyes are often shadowed and can be associated with being untrustworthy or a brooding personality.
Describe your character’s eyes. The eyes are the “windows to the soul” and should receive extra consideration. Most baby animals have large eyes and long lashes, making large-eyed or long-lashed people seem more trusting and open. Brown eyes are among the most common and are often associated with a plain, salt-of-the-earth honesty or a chocolate-brown depth and richness. Blue eyes may be thought of as innocent (baby-blue), piercing (icy-blue), or wise (gray-blue). Light-green eyes may seem trusting whereas emerald-green eyes are often thought of as exotic or catlike.
Describe your character’s eyebrows. Since the eyebrows are so intimately involved in facial expression, they also have a huge impact in their resting state. Kristin Stewart’s straight eyebrows give her a perpetual expression of nonchalance, whereas Marilyn Monroe’s high-arching brows add to her look of slight surprise and continuous interest. If the inner half of each eyebrow slants sharply downward, it can create a mischievous look á la Christian Slater or a slight scowl á la Megan Fox. Especially low brows like those of Michael C. Hall (a.k.a. Dexter Morgan) can create a sinister appearance.
Describe your character’s nose. The nose is extremely prominent on the face and can suggest a lot about your character’s attitude. An up-turned nose might be cute and playful like a child’s but can also veer into snobbish territory (i.e. someone who turns their nose up at you). Since noses continue to grow on a person’s face with age, a long nose can suggest an air of wisdom. A pinched nose like Nicole Kidman’s might be cute as a button but can also appear crinkled as if with distaste.
Describe your character’s mouth. Like eyebrows, the mouth is crucial in forming facial expressions and is subject to much interpretation. Since people’s lips grow thinner with age, full lips are associated with sensuality. Slightly open lips may seem relaxed or even suggestive (which is why most models pose this way), but a mouth that cannot close (á la Napoleon Dynamite) can give the impression of perpetual stupefaction. A wide mouth is often called “generous” and can convey a sense of openness, whereas a small, narrow mouth (think Hugh Laurie from “House”) may seem reserved or unfriendly.
Describe your character’s hairline. The hairline also plays a big part in how we see a face to be shaped. A widow’s peak, which interrupts the forehead by pointing down at the nose, adds an element of intrigue and is the go-to look for vampires. A receding hairline may suggest a loss of virility and earn a derisive title like “Mickey Mouse ears.”
Describe your character’s body type. Are they tall? If so, are they long and gangly or lean and athletic? If not, are they short and squat or petite? Is your character overweight, underweight, or perhaps just sturdily built? What other features stand out? For example, an elongated neck might be graceful and elegant whereas a thick neck or hardly any neck at all might suggest brute strength. Knock-knees may suggest uncertainty or clumsiness, duck-feet might seem to slap around fumblingly, and slender fingers might convey an artistic inclination.
Describe your character’s posture, body language, and clothing style. All of these things reflect the way a person interacts with the space around them, which speaks volumes about how they interact with the world at large. Does your character slouch with indiscipline or stand tall with certitude? Is their body language lackluster, hesitant, contracted, or expansive? Does your subject wear eye-catching clothing or blend into the background? In other words, does your character fill a room?
Fill in the remaining details. Note the hair and skin color. Instead of using words like chocolate, honey-wheat, raven-black, fiery orange (you don’t want to come off sounding like some odd cannibal. use words like brown, blonde, black, red and so on. Be sure to identify any unique markings; piercings, tattoos, and scars are very distinctive and tell unique stories about what your character has been through.