Thursday, 8 December 2011

Dear Reader:

Stop telling me how to write my characters!

More specifically, how to describe them. Because I usually don't. In fact, in some stories, my characters don't even get names. This is not my fault. If they don't tell me what their names are, how can I tell you?

Sometimes, I have no real idea what they look like. Sometimes, I know perfectly what they look like, and I don't really want to know if my character is not what you envisioned when you read the story. (Well, a certain someone told me the main character in my latest WIP reminded her of Jude Law, until I finally got to his description, and then she was tossed out of the story on her ass, so, well, no. He's not Jude Law. Not even a little bit, and I will fix that my  friend, ASAP!)

But if you think my character has long flowing locks of curly black hair and I describe him as having a a shaved head, well, no, annoying person, I am not wrong about my character. A person, especially a guy, who grows hair to his waist is a fundamentally different person than one who shaves his head. Think about that. Long hair, for a guy, is a trophy, a rebellion, a statement that no one owns you or your choices to step out of that gender box. Shaved hair is a symbol of all things military, and conforming. Not really the same type of person, my friend. (Just for fun, think about that same dynamics in a girl, and what the hair to the waist and the shaved head mean, and maybe it will make more sense.)

Dear, dear reader, I am not an idiot. Neither are you, of course, but maybe, read the book again, and imagine what might have to change about a guy who shaves his head to get him to grow it out to his waist. There might even be a really good story in that change, but do think about it, okay?

Also, another reason I don't describe my characters is this:
 I watched this video, and OMG, I want to make a character that is this adorable, this sweet, and this happy. Well, until I break him , and then put him back together, that is, because, well, that's what I do. I mean, just watch the video. This kid just exudes joy all over the place. But if I commit to this particular configuration of physical characteristics in my head, what if I get it wrong in description? That's the time when I'll feel like I didn't succeed. (Like the Jude Law incident. lol!)

So what do other writers do? I know some have very specific ideas of what their characters look like. Right down to having an actor/model/musician whatever representation to draw from in their descriptions. That just feels so...restricting to me. Are there any other writers like me out there who just, well, wing it? And what if, as a reader, that writer description isn't anything like what you imagine the characters to be? Do you just ignore the writer? (I do! lol!)

 Wow. I read this over and the use of the word 'well' is shameful. This, readers, is what editors do for me. But. I decided to leave them, and do a little contest. Spur of the moment. I'll give away a few copies of and old story, "Muses's Vacation" (because the sub in this story is one of my more adorable characters, I think) to three people who play editor and tell me how many times I over-used the word 'well' in this post :D

Blurb: Patrick is pretty new to the idea of having a Dom. When Leo gets trapped in that endless cycle of word-lock, and the inspiration just doesn't come for his writer Dom, Patrick decides discretion is better than taking his needs and frustration to Leo and asking for what he wants. Leo is not pleased to find his sub trying to satisfy his own desires, but even giving Pat what he needs doesn't break through the block, and Patrick knows drastic measures are in order. He has to drag Leo half way around the world before the writer realizes it's time to put his muse, and his sub, in their places.


Abigail-Madison Chase said...

Love this post! I think you are right I always have an image in my head of what I think the chracters look like and it's not always dependent on the description by the author.

Faith said...

Cover artists often get to play with characters' looks based on the fact that I write such tight pov in shorter stuff that their physical description is nil. They'll email and ask about so and so and I'll say to base the model on the character's personality in the paragraph I sent you. Most times the artist sends something back that's perfect.

Jaime Samms said...

Abigail, I remember one book I read where the Hero was a small, dark-haired dark skinned man, and his lover was this big blond bruiser. I never, ever pictured them that way. I always thought of them pretty much exactly opposite to what the author had in mind when she wrote them. Didn't stop me enjoying the entire series immensely!

Faith, you're so right. I've had wonderful luck with most of my covers, because the artists creating them pretty much got into my head and picked out what I was thinking from the sections of story I gave them. Of course, I've mostly worked with Lex and Emmy, so can you say spoiled much? lol!

Janice Seagraves said...

I haven't had anyone tell me that my characters aren't what they see, but then again I've only the one book out so far.


Anthology Authors said...

Now that I think on it, I'm pretty descriptive on most of my characters. I've never had anyone tell me my characters don't look how they imagined. I don't know if that's good or bad. LOL


Jaime Samms said...

Sounds like you've started off on the right foot, then, Janice :)

Marci, I don't know if it's good or bad, but I do know I have issues with being told I don't know my own characters. :D maybe that's just the diva in me lol!

Anthology Authors said...

That is rather odd, Jaime. After all, they are your characters. They chose you to come and talk to about the story. The reader just happens to be lucky and can read their stories.

Jaime Samms said...

Rather odd....yes, I suppose thwt's one way to put it. Lol. The argument was something like if you don't know them well enough to know wha they look like, you're obviously not getting it right. O.o some days, it doesn't pay to open an email.