Friday, March 13, 2020

Writing: Describing Faces

Writers, how would you describe the face shown here? Would you talk about the hair color, its style? Would you comment on the eye color. How about its shape, the complexion? In the case of a man, would his beard figure in your description? How about the presence or absence of glasses?

Every writer has his or her style, and my suggestion is to follow the adage of "whatever works." I've talked before about the late Ross Thomas. He was a newspaper writer before he turned his hand to writing novels, and I've noticed that he describes his characters much more fully than I. Here's an example:

"The sea was in her eyes, the somber, chill grey-blue of the winter Adriatic. But if you looked more deeply, there was also the promise of next summer's golden warmth." The words of Chekov are often quoted: "Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." I think you'll have to agree that Thomas did this.

There are other ways to describe a character, of course. I prefer to give the hair and eye color, but leave some of the details for the reader to fill in from their imagination. Other authors picture an actor (I don't know enough about most of them) and model their character on them. Again, my philosophy is, "Whatever works." But be consistent, not only within the book but from novel to novel. Your reader will soon come to expect it.

What works for you? I'd like to hear.


Priscilla Bettis said...

I try to pick up on something unusual about a character. A lot of people have green eyes and wavy, red hair, but not a lot of men have skin so pale and translucent that you can see the blue veins in their forearms, and not a lot of women have nails so long they've curled like claws. (Yeah, that's a little creepy, but I write spooky stories.)

Patricia Bradley said...

I don't do as much detail, either, Richard. I wish I thought like Ross Thomas, but I don't. I leave a lot to the reader's imagination. lol But I usually do give general size, hair and eye color. :-)

Richard Mabry said...

Priscilla, that's a good idea. In one of Thomas' stories, he describes a person dusting his hands as he thinks--when he does that, look out!

And Patricia, you, like I, give a general description and let the reader fill in the blanks. Whatever works.