Literary Rant #192: Character Looks

So, can someone please explain to me why it is that character looks are so focused upon? I mean, sure, if you have something interesting (like eyes the color of the morning sky) then mention it. But why is it that every time I read a book, the characters are generally described as being one of two things.

1) So goddamned good-looking, they belong in magazines, a museum, or they must have been the original inspiration for (insert piece of art here).

2) So average that the author feels the need to drill it into our heads that they are average. AVERAGE, YOU HEAR?! These kinds of people are usually paired with people from category 1.

And the thing that REALLY irks me? Generally speaking, we get the “average” female and the “god-like male specimen” in one story together, so the female can spend half the book wondering JUST how lucky she is to have landed such a GOD-LIKE MALE SPECIMEN. Because, you know, she is so plain. But really, she isn’t, because she is GORGEOUS underneath her plainness, she just needs some work from the god-like male specimen. This is especially true in Young Adult. For crying out loud, authors. GIVE THE NERDS A CHANCE!

Occasionally you get the odd person who just uses bare bones descriptors and lets the reader fill in the blanks, but usually character looks are one of the biggest word-count sinks ever. And they are a waste of words.

Does it help to know that the character’s hair is blonde? Sure, it can. Do I need to know it is the color of pale spun gold, glistening with flecks of purest white where the sun has kissed it ever so lovingly? No. Blonde will do. Even pale. I can fill in the blanks, I promise. I am a big girl.

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One thought on “Literary Rant #192: Character Looks

  1. WP – interesting take on character appearances. Yeah I usually hear advice on characters that say don’t overdo it – just pick out the salient features. Unless it’s Danielle Steel or something (I haven’t really noticed the ultra-hunk descriptions for the man, but yes, the women are usually played out as being attractive. I think it depends on who the protagonist is, who the author is, what the setting is, et cetera. But I can totally see your point. Thanks for dropping this.

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