Forgive me, but... I have an odd request to make.:

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Insert witty title here
Forgive me, but I have an odd request to make. I know I was the one supposed to come up with this, but... I just can't be unbiased.

The request? I don't really know how some my characters should look like. I have a basic idea (height, weight, facial features) but not hair and eye color.

Should I ask help here, for that?
2 MrAHR13th Mar 2011 05:27:59 PM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
If you don't know, it doesn't matter. But my advice? Go find a dollmaker or use the sims, and just have fun.
3 Luthen13th Mar 2011 05:46:39 PM from Down Under Burgess , Relationship Status: Playing Cupid
Do you really need to specify? If it's not important enough to you to have an idea, maybe it isn't. Just write, if you find yourself mentioning the colours, just go with whatever pops into your mind at the time.

I have to admit, descriptions of "she had X coloured hair and Y coloured eyes" annoy me. They don't really tell me anything. Descriptions of facial features tend to be much more identifying for me. But YMMV.

Or, you could go through the Hair Tropes and Eye Tropes, and see if any of the "meanings" listed for each colour seem relevant. Though I mostly decide mine based on racial background, meaning that a lot of characters have similar hair colour in particular (though not to People Of Hair Colour levels).
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4 Sidewinder13th Mar 2011 05:54:43 PM , Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
Sneaky Bastard
Is the story character or plot driven? Plot driven stories don't need much in the way of description. In most of the books by Tom Clancy all I know about a character's appearance is the character's sex, age and race (and that last one is often omitted). This does not really hurt the stories.

If they are character driven you do want some descriptions, but you don't need more than two or three unique identifiers. Harry Potter has messy black hair, green eyes and a scar. I don't really know how he looks besides that, but that still creates a pretty powerful mental image. The same can be said about almost all of the characters in those books.
Mister Master
I don't think it really matters unless your story is supposed to be a visual medium. I can see someone worrying about this if they intend to make a comic or illustrated novel but if it's all just text then descriptions like that aren't really necessary. Describe a unique physical trait or two—Like, for example, maybe one character has a noticeable scar on their face, or a peculiar hairstyle—and let the reader's imagination fill in the rest.

edited 13th Mar '11 6:03:00 PM by AXavierB

The Law of Conservation of Detail dictates that if their hair and eye colors don't need to be mentioned, don't mention them.

edited 13th Mar '11 6:17:21 PM by BudZer

Insert witty title here
You guys do have a point about the Law of Conservation of Detail.

I know it's stupid, but is that as I write, I visualize my characters. I must be a visual person, or something -_-.

Then again, if it's only for my own visualization, then I can do whatever the crap I want to, right? XD
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Of course. When I write or even read, I kinda cast my favourite actors, or figures as the characters.
Theres sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime and at least the trains all run on time but they dont go anywhere.
I don't fully agree with the Law of Conservation of Detail in this case. It partly depends on what Point of View you're using; let's say Bill comes up and says to your narrator, "I'd like you to meet Susan", what's the first thing your narrator is likely to do? Notice details of her appearance.

Also, remember when you were a kid and other kids would wheedle information out of you by asking "Is it X? Is it Y? Is it Z?" and as soon as your answer changed from "No" to "I'm not going to tell you", they knew it was that one? Such are the consequences of applying the Law of Conservation of Detail too rigorously. Leave out every detail that's not relevant, and your audience know at once that everything you tell them is relevant.

I often have a similar problem to you in that I find it really difficult to decide on unimportant details. I mentioned this to my friend Erika, who writes the excellent blog "Exchange of Realities" — seriously, anyone who wants to write should read this — and she responded with this post: An interesting discussion, but it never really helped me solve my own problem. I find the best way out is to make there be a reason for your choice, even if it's nothing to do with the character, even if it's silly. I gave one character a last name by thinking of two real-life people (neither of whom had any connection to the character) and splicing half of each of their names together. In a scene involving a lottery, I chose the winning numbers by reversing the characters' birthdays. (I was lucky to already have these; birthdays are really difficult to decide on....)

edited 14th Mar '11 7:54:43 AM by Vilui

10 cityofmist14th Mar 2011 02:36:05 PM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
Speaking of 'what your narrator would notice', I find it kind of annoying when people say 'don't just go for hair colour'. If I'm writing in first-person, which I normally do, then I do tend to mention hair colour, because apart from maybe race it is pretty much the first thing you notice about a person's appearance.
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11 animemetalhead14th Mar 2011 03:44:10 PM from Ashwood Landing, ME
Runs on Awesomeness
I do use hair color as my first descriptor of a character, immediately after gender and usually before height. I typically only mention eye color if it's unusual or particularly striking. Beyond that, I don't go out of my way to describe a character aside from noticeable features (scars, tattoos, etc.) and occasionally clothing that stands out. Give the readers a few specifics but let their imagination fill in the blanks; odds are they'll be able to identify better with characters they imagine rather than characters handed to them in a rigid form.

TL;DR, Law of Conservation of Detail.
No one believes me when I say angels can turn their panties into guns.
This is what I use for that problem. I have a tendency towards Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue, so I often go back and edit only to realize I have no clue what anyone in my story looks like.

edited 15th Mar '11 7:51:15 AM by Ettina

If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
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Total posts: 12