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Describing Faces

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Old 07-17-2009, 03:50 PM
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Default Describing Faces


Not much to say here...I totally fail at describing people's faces. Any tips?Anyone want to write a description? Here's a picture of me, since I feel I learn best from examples.

Ignore the strange look on my face. Just took it hastily with with webcam. And...I'd prefer it if you described my face in a positive way, not "nose as flat as his mother's chest" or something.

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Old 07-17-2009, 04:13 PM
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And...I'd prefer it if you described my face in a positive way, not "nose as flat as his mother's chest" or something.
Lol. That's funny

I'm one of those people that describes faces fairly minimally. Too many details, in my opinion, will inhibit the reader's imagination.

To describe you, I would say: He had jet black, shaggy hair that rested near his chin. Underneath the layers in the front, you could see his dark almond-shaped eyes peeking through to the camera lens.

Hair and eyes. That would be enough to give the reader a good sense of how you looked like. Everyone has a nose. Unless there is something that sticks out about it, there is no need to mention it. Same with lips. You could, though, mention a smile--smiles say a lot about a character. Evil grin, beaming smile, half-smirk--those things can give the character a lot of depth. Otherwise, the basics are usually good enough for the jist of what a character's face looks like.
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Old 07-17-2009, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Firefly View Post

I'm one of those people that describes faces fairly minimally. Too many details, in my opinion, will inhibit the reader's imagination.

Hair and eyes. That would be enough to give the reader a good sense of how you looked like. Everyone has a nose. Unless there is something that sticks out about it, there is no need to mention it. Same with lips. You could, though, mention a smile--smiles say a lot about a character. Evil grin, beaming smile, half-smirk--those things can give the character a lot of depth. Otherwise, the basics are usually good enough for the jist of what a character's face looks like.
Thanks so much for the tips! I especially like how I don't have to describe the nose or anything of the sort: noses and facial features like the nose and lips were places I especially failed.
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Old 07-17-2009, 06:34 PM
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"He was cute. He had never been poked in either eye with a fork, or, if he had, had settled for only the best in his search for a replacement. His nose was as--" Oh, wait. Just read that part. Darn it, why'd you have to give such a specific example??
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Old 07-17-2009, 07:40 PM
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I find it's better not to try to describe faces. If detail is needed, provide it, but don't practice writing about faces. It gives people a very Mary-Sue/Larry Stu feel if you go into any sort of detail about their eye colour or hair texture, etc. The best way to give out details like that is slipping them into actions. Her normally mud-brown eyes cleared as a flash of anger overcame her complacency.

The exception is during characters' thoughts and impressions. During a first meeting, for example, if the character is someone who would think of physical appearance first, that character might muse over the rugged handsomeness of this fellow's looks, the way his mop of black hair reminds her of her cousin... As an author, however, it's probably best to avoid ever describing a character's face right out. I usually set a mental image of a character in my mind long before knowing their exact facial features, and anything too detailed just creates conflict with that image.
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Old 07-17-2009, 08:34 PM
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I also have been the type who has had trouble describing appearences especially hair and really non-traditional clothes (like old-fashioned royalty). I think talking about just the body, eyes, hair, clothes or/and how old the person looks is okay. (ie: Thin fellow in his teens, brown eyes and hair)
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Old 07-18-2009, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Winterbite View Post
The exception is during characters' thoughts and impressions. During a first meeting, for example, if the character is someone who would think of physical appearance first, that character might muse over the rugged handsomeness of this fellow's looks, the way his mop of black hair reminds her of her cousin... .
Even then, it's best to mention one or two key features and not give a full facial description. Think about it. When you first meet someone, do you think: her eyes are warm and brown, her eyebrows perfectly arched, the lashes long; the nose is maybe a little too long; her lips are full and rosy; her teeth are slightly crooked but not unattractive; she has high cheekbones and a wide smile in an oval face framed by shell-like ears and topped with a mass of thick black hair ... ?

No, I didn't think so.

You probably notice the eyes first and foremost because we tend to look into people's eyes when we speak and listen. Windows of the soul and all that. Maybe one other thing after that. First impressions are formed very quickly and are based on an almost instant evaluation of physical features, clothing, behaviour/manners, and speech. You're taking a lot in, but you are forming impressions, not registering details. That comes later, which is why people say things like, "I never noticed before that your eyes are so blue/small/bloodshot." Long after we've met someone, we're still filling in details.

In fact, for most character description, less is more. Information should be given only when it's needed or if it fits. So if someone is brushing their hair back, you can mention colour, length, and so on; if a man straightens his tie, you can say whether this is normal attire or whether his suit indicates that he is dressed specially for the occasion. But if the reader doesn't need to know what sort of footwear the character has on, why mention it at all?
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Old 07-18-2009, 08:39 AM
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I agree with the sentiments echoed here. Over-describing facial features is oftentimes not necessary. Most readers will draw their own face, regardless of how much detail you describe. So, keep it simple. Hair, eyes, and, where necessary, lips. If you desperately need to go any further, you might describe their face. High jaw lines, lantern faces, high cheekbones, cleft chins, jowly double-chins, that kind of thing. But, like I said, it's often unnecessary. You don't want your novel to start reading like a Victoria's Secret catalogue. Less is often more in these situations.

Another tip is to enhance your character by giving them scars, beards, moustaches. Something that will make them visible and memorable in a reader's mind.
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Old 07-18-2009, 10:00 AM
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Agreed. Sometimes its better to leave some things to the imagination. I, for one, form a mental image pretty early, and when I'm faced with a description overload, I inevitably think, "That's not what he should look like!" So, sticking to the basics is probably safer.
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Old 07-19-2009, 10:33 PM
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Or just a major point, really.
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