How (and when) to describe your characters

All authors love their characters. We love them so much that we can’t wait to tell our readers everything about them. But sometimes we jump the gun and start describing our main characters way too much, and way too early.

Here is a common description I’ve seen in a lot of stories written by teens:

I have long, curly brown hair that goes down to my mid back, with blond highlights. I have ocean blue eyes and tan, olive colored skin. I’m tall, but not that tall, like 5’8 or so.

If this is in your first chapter. Stop. Delete it, and try again. Remember, first chapters are for engaging the reader, not descriptions.

A lot of authors have different methods for different things. I will tell you my method for description, which I call the “Sly description.” In this method, I slowly introduce the features of my main characters without breaking the text.

For example, instead of telling the reader someone is short, show them having difficulty reaching a high shelf.

Here is an example of how to show readers that a character has red, curly hair:

I grabbed the brush, struggling to pull it through my knotted mess of red curls.

Okay, it’s not the best example, but it’s better than saying, “I have red curly hair” in the middle of the text.

Eyes are tricky, in my opinion. I don’t think they really need to be mentioned until a crucial part of the story. Ex: I stared into Desmond’s piercing green eyes as he moved in for the kiss. As for the main character, I don’t think they need to be mentioned at all.

However, if the eyes are something special, of course they can be talked about. In my horror story KrawL, Gianna, my main heroine, has a gene mutation that caused her to have black hair and blue eyes. The theme of mutation is relevant throughout the book.

That’s all for today! I’ll try and have something romance themed for tomorrow.

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