What’s He Look Like?

Is it important what a character looks like?

When reading fiction, we can’t really see the characters anyway. Some writers will write pages and pages filled with physical description but is this really necessary?

As a reader, I build up a vision of the characters in my mind. I do this with my own imagination. I use what the author gives me, but I add to that my personal experiences and general impressions I get from the text.

The real reason I’m asking this question is that I have come to realize that I don’t use much in the way of physical description in any of fiction I have I have written since starting my five-year mission.

Is there a value to using physical description or can I just leave it alone. Is it enough to know the setting, the family life and the age of the character? We can learn a lot about a character from his history, his choices, and his dialogue. The story gives us clues throughout and helps us to form a picture in our minds. Your picture may be different than mine, and that’s fine.

I find that when I read passages of physical descriptions in any work, I tend to skim right past them. To me, that isn’t an integral point of the story. I don’t want anybody to skip through my reading.

I have a lot of questions about writing. Last year I thought I knew what I was doing but now I am looking more critically at my own work. I believe this is a healthy thing to do that will only help to improve my writing overall.

Please weigh in on this issue in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!

5 responses to “What’s He Look Like?”

  1. Actually, I don’t really like physical descriptions of characters when I’m reading. It’s distracting, especially when I’ve already pictured what they look like, and it’s suddenly changed for me.
    When I write, I don’t think I pay much attention to physical description. I already know what they look like, so I don’t bother, and I think that readers should be allowed to come up with their own idea of what the character looks like – it helps make books more interactive, I think. As opposed to spelling out everything, leaving out details that one can come up with on their own.

  2. Ohh, I do like some physical description. I love a well painted picture through the written word. I think it can be done in a subtle way, so as not to distract. 🙂

  3. Hi Alexis,

    Thanks for weighing in on this topic. It seems like we are on the same page.

    Hi Squawkfox,

    I love a well painted picture with words as well. But I think the story tells more than the exposition. Maybe I am wrong. Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion.

  4. Hi Chase – I like to read a physical description so I can envision what the character looks like. Although my idea of what a character looks like may differ from another persons idea, I feel it’s important.

  5. Hi Barbara,

    It’s interesting to see that some people like the description and some don’t. Of course, description only takes us so far, that’s why we all “see” the characters differently.

    Thanks for weighing in.