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Main Character

by Jessica Farmer
(GA, United States)

How do i describe what a main character looks like when I am using first-person?


ANSWER:

Appearance may be the least important way to characterize and is usually only useful if the appearance points to something important about the character's nature.

No one cares that a blouse is red, for example, unless it being red shows that the character is flamboyant, or suggests her propensity to anger easily.

Always avoid rattling off a list of physical attrributes. However, you might sprinkle a few bits of deccription throughout the text with some of these techniques:

  1. Have another character note the appearance of your POV character, as when a lover twists a strand of hair around a finger and comments on its curl, or when one character says to another, "can't you wear something other than sweat pants?"

  2. Have another character use a nickname, such as "Red," or "Freckles" or ask how the character got the scar across her cheek, or some other identifying characteristic.

  3. Have the POV character ask for an opinion, such as "I've never had a brushcut before. What do you think?"

  4. Or have the character make a statement, such as "The sun brought out my freckles."

  5. Have the character make a purchase that says something about him or her. For example, does the charcter choose jogging shoes, or polished loafers? Flip flops or 4-inch heels?

  6. Have the character polish his/her glasses or hunt for them, break them, etc.

Readers don’t care to learn something as mundane as that a character is a “slim, brown-eyed beauty.” They will be much more interested to learn that the character sucks in her stomach every time she sees herself reflected in a car window.


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