In every story you write, you’ll most likely have to describe the appearance of your characters. I know after a while it can get tedious and maybe even a little boring. Even though how your character looks is up to you, I still think there are some basic “rules” you should follow. There are ways of describing appearances that won’t bore your readers or have them rolling their eyes. There are ways to keep it fresh.

You don’t have to tell us everything about your characters in the few opening pages. Your readers don’t need to know everything about your main character’s appearance right away, especially if it doesn’t add to the story. Telling us that your main character is handsome or beautiful over and over again is a waste of time and it doesn’t do anything for your WIP. Telling us that your character is nice to look at doesn’t allow us to really understand your character. If you tell us about a scar they possess, however, we’ll begin to wonder why they have it. It pertains to the story.

You also need to describe your characters differently if you want your readers to remember who they are. I know sometimes people look alike, but all your characters can’t have blonde hair and blue eyes. I KNOW this all depends on what sort of story you’re telling, the location, and the time period, but you need to have some variety. We don’t want to picture all of your characters looking the same.

Planning out how your character will look should be just as important as everything else you plan out. The details of your character shouldn’t be tedious, but they should offer some sort of important information about your character. Make it exciting. Make your character descriptions worth reading. Whenever I read a weak character description, I think maybe the author didn’t even know what they wanted their character to look like. I know whenever I haven’t properly described a character, it was because I didn’t put enough time into it.

You can use more than sight to describe appearances. Using more than one sense can really help you out and make your descriptions more interesting. I’m sure most of you are well aware that writing is not just a visual process, but made more interesting when you use your five senses. You can say that someone has brittle hair or smells like bacon. This will add to your character descriptions and make them more realistic.

The most important advice I can give you when describing your characters is to avoid info dumping, like I mentioned in the beginning. We can learn about your character’s appearance over time and it does not have to be the first thing you write about. If you’re starting your novel with an action scene, for example, you don’t have to break to tell us what your character looks like. That can be mentioned later.

-Kris Noel

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