Thursday, April 26, 2007

Character Description

JMB asked me a question:
Just one comment. On the book as a whole so far. I do have a feel for the characters from their dialogue. But I am not getting a picture in my mind's eye of them. This is most unusual for me. Did you describe their physical appearance? I've not got time to go back and check at the moment. I know Ian has sandy curly hair (I think that's what I remember, although it's a common Celtic attribute and I might be assuming, I don't think so. I'm sure you mentioned that.) I don't picture Kathryn at all, is she dark, is she tall? Is it just me forgetting the description of each of them?

Uh, um, uh . . . (crickets chirp)

After tossing this around for a bit I wrote back:
About the descriptions of Ian and Kathryn, I have and haven't done a paragraph or two describing them completely. Ian is definitely described more--he has sandy brown hair, a bit of acne scars on his cheeks, a crooked nose, and is 6 feet. In the first chapter I did a bit of description about how he was dressed and his shoulders, but to be honest it doesn't come naturally to me in terms of writing.

Kathryn? She's about five foot five inches, a small to medium build, and has brown hair. That's as far as I've gotten on her. She just is.

Can you help me out? Do you have a mental image of the characters? Do you need one? Do you really, really want one? What do you think Kathryn looks like?


Trixie said...

I know this isn't natural for you but most readers will need this information. Some of us are ok filling in the blanks ourselves and never really cared whether or not there was description. Others will need it. It can't hurt to add it. Frankly I tend to ignore it (mentally) and let my mind compose the picture. But that's me.

Kathyrn. What does she look like? It's been a bit since I read the book but an image jumps right out at me nonetheless. She has chestnut hair. Thick. Lustrous. Her secret pride and joy. It needs to be just long enough to do something with but not so long as to be all girlie and impractical. A nice medium length. Men should think of her hair as "solid" "not the kind you flick out of your eyes or toss over your shoulder like a horse" "the kind that can handle a large man's hands - not all dried out from bleaching an unnatural shade" "soft with a shine".

There's just something about her hobbling along on painful high heels across cobblestone roads that demands that she have a less foolhardy hairstyle. Something that says "yes, I am a fashion dolt for wearing these shoes but damn, I have good hair." Besides we know what the shoes are really about...don't we?

Kell said...

I agree with the no-nonsense hair - longish - but I pictured her as a blonde (or as my nephew used to say it, "blind")

Sarabeth said...

She's not blond, and I can't even think of her as blond.

She does have medium length hair, though. I like the thickness kind of hair. In the chapter where she goes sightseeing with Ian she states that she doesn't mind getting her hair messy.

jmb said...

Oh I think I'll use Trixie's description for my mind's eye! Thick lustrous chestnut hair. Just what I always wanted myself. After all K has the Celtic genes too. Freckles to go with the pale Celtic skin.

My father was from Scotland so I got the freckles and the skin and used to have coppery brown curly hair. Now washed out grey I'm afraid.

I think in this type of book I need to "see" a character. Anyway this has got you thinking about the question which is a good thing. You may decide not to add much of a description but at least it will be a conscious choice and not just an avoidance.

wolfbaby said...

i kinda thought of her with hazel or crystal green eyes?

graceful yet... effiecent in movment.. no wasted movements

Sarabeth said...

Okay, I think I've got it. I'll describe her in the first chapter as well but in a round about way. When she mentally crafts the story about Catriona she'll make the character look like her. After all Catriona is an ancient Scottish equivalent of Kathryn. And, although you don't know the complete story yet, it will so work with the rest of the book.