Sigh. I read a lot of indie books. I’ve said this before, but I read or at least crack open around 6 books a week. It never fails–just when I am really enjoying reading a book, something comes along to yank me out of it. Like an asteroid landing in the backyard or squirrels taunting the dog–it’s always some darned thing.
Unfortunate phrasings that yank me out of a book:
“She lay there staring with her creamy blue eyes, water pooling in the corners.”
“Her eyes were the same color as the deep purple velvet drapes.”
Meh. Enough about their eyes already. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be told what to think when I am reading a book. The fact is, what I consider beauty is not necessarily beautiful to someone else. So how do you describe a character in such a way that the reader will find them as attractive as you want them to be?
I think a loose, general description will solve the problem, and give the reader the framework to build their mental image around. In my TOWER OF BONES series, the men in Edwin’s family have this sort of cachet that makes them irresistible to all women. It is the Goddess Aeos’s way of ensuring that the girl she has selected for them falls in love with them, and their bloodline is continued.
But what do they look like? Well, they are blond, blue-eyed, and well-built, muscular from working on their farm. To men they seem rather average, nothing spectacular. They aren’t the best looking man in town, so what is this charisma they seem to have?
To women, they are an irresistible banquet of masculine pheromones. This creates many opportunities for mayhem, and I have had a lot of fun with that particular plot-line, especially in my current work in progress, Mountains of the Moon.
For my other characters in various books–Christoph Berryman is dark, with short black hair and elfin features. Julian Lackland is blond, handsome, the image of the knight in shining armor. Huw the Bard is dark, blue-eyed with black curling hair. Friedr Freysson is tall, with long curling red hair and a beard. Aeolyn is small, with dark hair worn in plaits that she coils around her head like a crown.
Because I am a romantic at heart, ALL my characters are exceedingly good-looking in their own different ways. I just don’t want to beat the reader over the head with my personal vision, other than the general description to cement them in place.
In many ways, my mental images of my characters are drawn from the many wonderful characters in the epic Final Fantasy series of games, which these images are also from. I love the fabulous art work that Square-Enix, the makers of these games put into their characters, making them a blend of the best of all we are as humans. Since a great deal of my time has been spent playing these games, It stands to reason a certain amount of that kind of storytelling will creep into my work.
And this is the way it is for every author–your vision is definitely not what your readers see, and to force them to see what you do ruins the flow of the tale. A good general description, with hints or comments about their beauty or lack thereof is all that is needed. The reader’s mind will supply the rest.