There are different schools of thought when it comes to describing the physical appearance of characters in a book. Some readers want to know exactly what a character looks like—from hair and eye color, to the size of their hands and the color of their shoes. Other readers prefer little to no description, and give the character an appearance of their own choosing in their imagination as they read. Neither one is right or wrong, or better or worse—and no matter which one you do, you will likely have readers who want more or less description.
Some genres lend themselves to more in-depth physical descriptions of characters. In fantasy and science fiction, where there is a lot of world-building and thus descriptions of scenery, objects, and fantastical creatures, some physical description of main characters is expected. Also most romance genres describe characters’ physical appearances.
But whether you’re writing a fantasy romance or a literary drama, what’s the best way to actually describe the characters? Most editors and experienced writers agree that the info-dump method is not the best way. A full paragraph (or more) of straight “telling” description is not the most engaging way of describing a character: “She had brown hair and blue eyes. She was five-foot-five, unless she wore heels. She wore a brown leather jacket and a red scarf.” Continue reading