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Total posts: [16]
1

Describing the appearance of a viewpoint character:

Mate Griffon To Mare
How do I get the appearance of a viewpoint character across, if the viewpoint character is not vain? I'm writing a story from the viewpoint of the male lead, and I don't want to fall into the all-to-common trap of describing the female lead's appeal in detail, and then making the male lead a total blank when it comes to appearance, because I've seen that so many times, and it's annoying.
"All pain is a punishment, and every punishment is inflicted for love as much as for justice." — Joseph De Maistre.
 2 Mr AHR, Fri, 25th Mar '11 5:20:22 PM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Contrast with someone else? Have someone else comment on what they like about her? Maybe a nickname? If it's not relevant, don't bother?
Mate Griffon To Mare
[up] Both of their appearances are relevant.
"All pain is a punishment, and every punishment is inflicted for love as much as for justice." — Joseph De Maistre.
 4 Mr AHR, Fri, 25th Mar '11 5:30:44 PM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
OK then. Have assistant people try and dress them, and fret about certain things matching their appearance.

Have them wear something that belongs to someone else, and contrast it.

Have someone be mistake one of the characters for a sibling to another, since they look alike, or be shocked that two characters are siblings, since they look nothing alike, or something of that sort.

If one of them is not a bean pole, have someone look appalledish when they are eating, and the person to notice.

edited 25th Mar '11 5:31:03 PM by MrAHR

 5 annebeeche, Fri, 25th Mar '11 5:49:30 PM from by the long tidal river
watching down on us
In an early Goosebumps book by RL Stine, the protagonist discusses how unpopular he is and speculates as to why he's so unpopular. Is it because of his looks? He says that he looked at himself in the mirror. Described his basic appearance. Says he's not exactly handsome, but not ugly either.
Banned entirely for telling FE that he was being rude and not contributing to the discussion. I shall watch down from the goon heavens.
 6 Wolf 1066, Fri, 25th Mar '11 6:20:09 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
Cheers for the question and the answers - I'm running into the same problem myself. Writing in the first person makes it hard to get across what the narrator looks like without sounding stilted, contrived or vain. However, detailed descriptions of what everyone else looks like and having a narrator who's in the thick of the action seeming like some sort of disembodied voice is also really weird.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 7 Loni Jay, Fri, 25th Mar '11 6:43:19 PM from Australia Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
An interesting way I saw this dealt with was in the Eisenhorn books by Dan Abnett. The first person narrator was established as telling his story for inclusion in a library of case-files. In the first chapter he said something along the lines of "My looks? I have dark hair and am cleanshaven. I don't see why it matters anyway."
Be not afraid...
 8 aishkiz, Fri, 25th Mar '11 6:58:39 PM from under the stairs
Slayer of Threads
This depends entirely on the personality of the POV character and the nature of the story.

Describing one's appearance could be done because the main character is self-aware nearly to the point of breaking the fourth wall example 1 — not always possible to pull off — or, in more typical cases, worked into the story in small chunks example 2 — some other examples of how to do this are supplied by AHR, but the possibilities are really endless. Working exposition seamlessly into the story is typically the best way to do stuff in general.
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 9 Wolf 1066, Fri, 25th Mar '11 8:26:42 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
I guess it also depends how medium aware you're making the character. My story is written from the point of view of a person writing something down for posterity so he's aware of the medium and can easily break the fourth wall if required - including directly addressing the reader if need be.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
Mate Griffon To Mare
Well my character isn't medium aware or genre savvy. Yep, I'm making it hard on myself.
"All pain is a punishment, and every punishment is inflicted for love as much as for justice." — Joseph De Maistre.
My teacher's a panda
Perhaps you can find ways to have the other characters note upon his appearance in conversation, such as "Hey, you're tall and lanky, help me get that jar from the top shelf" or "Stop jumping, you'll cause an earthquake, fatty" or "Hey, are you Tom Cruise?" It's not entirely necessary that you get a full paragraph description, is it? As long as you can sprinkle in some important traits here and there, that should be plenty, right?

Mate Griffon To Mare
Okay, so I have him describing how he towers over his wife because he's 6'3". But his most striking feature is his eyes, and I don't know how to get him describing those, because people don't usually think things along the lines of "I have steely grey eyes that give my gaze a peircing, commanding quality, but hints of earthy tones about the iris give warmth to them as well."
"All pain is a punishment, and every punishment is inflicted for love as much as for justice." — Joseph De Maistre.
 13 Mr AHR, Sat, 26th Mar '11 8:36:52 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Have him use his eyes early on, or have someone react to them early on.
 14 lord Gacek, Sat, 26th Mar '11 8:57:54 AM from Kansas of Europe
KVLFON
What about having the character look into a mirror? Is that possible without it looking forced?

[edit]
[down] Just for the record: and now I know! Thanks for telling me that. [lol]

edited 26th Mar '11 10:54:50 AM by lordGacek

"Atheism is the religion whose followers are easiest to troll"
 15 chihuahua 0, Sat, 26th Mar '11 9:00:46 AM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
[up] Isn't that considered one of things not to do in order to describe a character's appearence?
Indecisive Goldfish
I'm pretty sure if someone's most striking feature is his eyes, someone is bound to mention it. I can't mention Cillian Murphy in a conversation without mentioning his blue eyes of awesome... and in normal conversation I will mention how someone looks if it's particularly interesting (though that might be because I draw and walk the earth going "Your interesting nose will show up on one of my characters!")

I have trouble adding descriptions of my viewpoint character too. So far I tend to depend on the other characters mentioning things they find odd or interesting about the way he looks. And the character is a bit sensitive about his height and tends to mention every time someone is taller than him.
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Total posts: 16
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