Tuesday 15 April 2014

Did he have blonde hair or black . . .?

I read and critiqued a friend’s manuscript the other week.  I read all of it, from beginning to end, and even though it was really good, the one major thing I had to point out was the bombshell at the end that her protagonist had black hair.  Not a major bombshell, but when you’ve read through the entire book picturing the protagonist as one thing only to find out he’s something else, it's a bit of a shock.  As it turned out with my friend, she was brilliant at describing the weird and unusual – and it was a fantasy so there was a lot of that - but anything everyday and mundane she inadvertently neglected. 

This brought up the topic of description.  Info dumps are never really a good thing.  There are far better ways to add description than by saying “He was 6ft something, blue eyes, black hair and a few days’ worth of stubble on his chin”;

“He brushed a hand through his thick black hair…”

“His blue eyes turned wide with shock…”

I won’t go on.  I’m pretty sure you get the drift.  Anyway, it also helps to actually know your character physically.  For every character I create a little bio.  Nothing mega, just height, hair colour, style, eye colour, age.  This way when you need to mention it and you’ve forgotten it, you don’t have to go hunting through your manuscript trying to find the last place you mentioned it.  It also avoids inconsistencies.

Another idea is to add an actual face to your characters.  By this I mean finding a tv/movie star and basing your characters around them (I call this a dream team).  Sometimes though, if your characters are born before you allocate them a famous face, it can be hard to find someone suitable to fit the role, and sometimes you may have to come to terms with the fact that you’ll never find someone suitable – unless you spend hours trolling the web when you should be writing!

I’ve only found one face for one of my characters.  He’s no one famous.  He’s a model for the firm I work for.  But as soon as I saw him in those images I knew. 

Meet Devon McCormick.  

Image courtesy of Brora.co.uk


  1. we do love them blond and blue eyed

  2. As I read this I thought of the once very famous British thriller writer Peter Cheyney. When ever a woman entered the room what ever was happening - mayhem, murder, fighting, drinking - whatever - would stop as he spent two paragraphs describing her hair face and costume from earings to shoes. Then the action would continue again. Different times but makes weird reading. :)