I love character description! No really, give me all the character description, and I will eat it up. I know some people don’t like too much of it, but I love getting to see what every new character I meet looks like. So I thought it’d make a good post to explain why I love it so much, and then you all can tell me your thoughts on the topic!
What someone looks like is a part of who they are
I don’t mean we should judge people based on what they look like or that we are defined by how we look, but rather that what we look like is usually important to us. If it wasn’t, no one would ever dye their hair, or get haircuts and styles, or wear makeup, or pick out clothes they like, or get piercings and tattoos, etc. And we sometimes feel more of a connection with people when we can associate a face or a hair style or a clothing style or something to their name. I like feeling connected to characters and getting to know them a bit through what they look like.
I just find it fun and interesting to know what characters look like
There are so many different ways a person can look! (What color is their hair? How long is it? What style is it in? What color are their eyes? Are they big and bright? Do they have bags under them? Do they sparkle? Do they have freckles? Birthmarks? Moles? Piercings? Tattoos? Scars? Are their teeth white and perfectly straight? Are they yellowed from smoking or drinking coffee? Are they adorably crooked? Do they have a snaggletooth? Does their smile curve more on one side? Do they have dimples? A bent nose? Maybe an upturned nose? Soft, rounded facial features? Sharp, angular facial features? Do they look feminine? Masculine? Androgynous? Do they have a cleft chin? A strong jaw? Stubble? Ears that stick out? Are they skinny? Thin and lean? Fat? Curvy? Super muscular? More muscular in one part of their body? Short? Tall? Somewhere in between? How do they dress? In bright colors? In all black? In t-shirts and jeans? In suits and ties? In sundresses? In a simple, practical style? In band t-shirts? In lots of jewelry and accessories? Do they slouch? Do they stand super straight?) I want to know everything—or however much applies—for the main characters at least because each extra detail is fascinating and creates a more unique, real-feeling character.
What someone looks like can sometimes tell you something about them
I don’t condone making assumptions, but, for example, if someone is muscular, it means they either work out a lot or play a sport or have a job/hobby that requires lots of manual labor. For another example, bags under someone’s eyes is usually a sign that they don’t get much sleep. As humans, I believe it is in our nature to make assumptions to an extent based on what we see (I mean, there’s a reason we don’t wear pajamas to job interviews), so the way a person dresses/looks/carries themselves can give off a certain vibe, even if that vibe is incorrect. Authors can even use common expectations to surprise the reader or to show that stereotypes are often wrong.
How a character sees other characters can also tell you something
If there are multiple POVs in a novel, it can be interesting the different things each character notices about others and how they view them.
I have a hard time picturing characters without a description
I guess this is the most important one on the list. I like to picture everything as much as possible in my head while I read. I take my time reading. I don’t speed read. I rarely skim. And I do picture more than just a blob when it comes to characters. (I’m not judging anyone who does any of those things though, you can read in whatever way makes you happy!) But I need description if I’m going to picture things well. The less description I have, the more generic or blobby the characters end up looking in my mind. And sometimes, if I’m not even told hair color, the character’s hair will constantly change color in my head because I’m trying not to commit to anything until I know for sure, and that just ends up distracting me.
But There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Do It
I don’t want paragraphs of description for every single character in a book. Even for the main character, I don’t need a paragraph description of the exact size and shape of their nostrils. But the important things, a general description, anything that stands out or makes them somewhat unique, those are the things I want to know. A good description can give you a feel for who they are and the vibe they give off in addition to what they look like. And there are ways to make the description flow smoothly with the story, vs. ways that take you out of the story (e.g. looking in a mirror and describing themselves). But when it’s done right, I do love getting as much detail as possible because it helps me picture characters more clearly and get to know them even better!