Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Looking Like People

"Your characters talk and act like people, but they don't look like people," my fiction writing class told me last week.  This constructive criticism has stuck in my head since then. 

It's true: I rarely describe the physical features of my characters.  Maybe it's because even though I'm a visual learned I struggle to describe real people much less made-up people.  There are almost a million 5'4" girls with light brown hair.  Maybe it's because I find writing physical description to be boring.  "Her dyed red hair fell in her face covering her hazel eyes" lameness.  Maybe it's because when I'm reading I envision the characters my own way and don't like being told I'm wrong.
"But we want to see the characters the way you see them," my professor told me.

My question is: Does it matter?  If it's vital that a character has curly, dark brown hair looks like she jumped out of a Jane Austen novel, then, yes, of course I'll mention it.  But does every character, or even the main character, need to be accompanied by a physical description?

Elizabeth says yes.  Otherwise they're just voices.
Nikki says she's stop reading if they weren't described.
Without looking up from the book she was reading, Amy nodded.

I remember as a fourth grader reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe before watching the movie.  Afterwards, the teacher asked us what we thought.

One student (I wish it was me...) said, "I liked the pictures in the book better."

I gave my protagonist strawberry blonde hair just to appease my classmates.  But deep down inside I wonder.  Does it matter to you if you know I'm so skinny I disappear if I turn sideways, my hands are so chapped they're bloody, and my not-quite-shoulder-length dirty blonde hair spends a majority of it's time in a three-quarters pony tail?

<>< Katie

1 comment:

Caitlin Nicole Munro said...

So when you described the girl with the dark brown curly hair straight out of a Jane Austen movie, I immediately thought Liz. So if that was who you were going for you succeeded haha

Usually like when characters are described...except when the author lets you get half way through the book before describing them...because then I've already created what they look like in my head and I become extremely annoyed when the character in my head doesn't match the character the author describes haha (that's also why sometimes movies based on book annoy me b/c the characters don't fit the character I had imagined...and normally I like the one I imagined better than the one the movie portrays haha)

Love you!