Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WiP Wednesday: Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Referencing my post regarding pictures that make me think of my characters and the stories of their lives, I thought I'd toss this one in there too.

As a writer, when characters show up in my head, I know what they look like. I know how tall they are, the color of their hair, eyes, skin. I know how they walk, the way their faces squinch up when they feel certain emotions, the curve of their lips, the arch of their eyebrows.

So how and when do you convey these things to the reader?

Agent blogs abound advise against the typical "she looked in the mirror" or "he caught his reflection in the darkened window" scenarios. They are common and predictable.

My struggle right now is finding the best way to describe what the main character/narrator looks like, because most descriptions in books are around who they are looking at and interacting with. (Twilight and the beautiful Edward, anyone?)

Any partialities to getting the whole description over with in a few sentences, clumped into a paragraph, or do you weave the characteristics through the story? I've tried both techniques and always struggle a bit with, the is it enough, is it too much issues. Something I'm currently going through with 2 of my 3 wips right now.

Below I have a few examples from various published works as well as a few of my own. I've also included page numbers so you know how far into the story you are before you, as the reader, "knows" what a character looks like.

Take a look and see if you can figure out which ones I've written and which ones are published works. I'll put up the answers on Friday with some more thoughts on this whole, figuring out what characters look like, thing.

Unfortunately no prize for this game, well, except that overwhelming sense of accomplishment when you guess correctly! ;)

#1 - I had never been one to covet, but I looked up at her now and suddenly wished I was pretty too. Everyone always told me I looked just like my mother. We had the same straight, dark hair, on my mother it was a compliment to her olive complexion; it made my never-tanned skin look nearly transluscent. My dark eyes only emphasized just how pale I was. (pg. 13)

#2 - I look into the medicine cabinet mirror and . . . turn from one side to the other, attempting to evaluate my . . . face objectively . . . My nose is now small and delicate, almost perfect . . . sculpted cheeks of Pocahontas . . . my lips, they look . . . fuller or plumper or something. (pg. 70-71)

#3 - I should be tan, sporty, blond--a volleyball player, or a cheerleader, perhaps--all the things that go with living in the valley of the sun.
Instead, I was ivory-skinned, without even the excuse of blue eyes or red hair, despite the constant sunshine. I was always slender, but soft somehow, obviously not an athlete; . . . I looked at my face in the mirror as I brushed through my tangled damp hair. (pg. 10)

#4 - She gives her straight dirty-blond hair a lesson with a wet comb . . . (pg. 68)

#5 - . . . (think bushy-eyebrowed president of some country you've never heard of). But although my heritage may explain m y stature, thick dark hair, and olive complexion, it's not responsible for my oversized hooked nose, my nonexistent cheekbones, my oversized chin, and last, but definitely not least, my buck teeth. (pg. 3)

#6 - . . . all I've done with my short black hair is run my fingers through it. I know I look "undone," but I don't care. (pg. 50)

#7 - . . . sun is behind me, melting my sheet of dyed black hair to my scalp. I knew my whole going-Goth decision was going to turn around and bite me . . . (pg. 2)

#8 - Out the corner of my eye I could see the ends of my straight, black hair. Flat, lifeless. I glanced back at my cousin and wished I was tall, graceful and had that stop-traffic kind of beauty. Instead, I'm just like every other Asian girl out there: long black hair, brown eyes, and completely ordinary. (pg. 2)

#9 - . . . so vain about my long blond hair I wouldn't dream of scraping it back into a ponytail and hiding beneath a big hooded sweatshirt. (pg. 3)

#10 - . . . I felt her hand move down the back of my head, smoothing my red hair, which we did have in common, alther hers was now streaked with an early gray. We also shared our pale skin--the redhead curse or gift . . . as well as our tall, wiry frames. (pg. 11)

Meanwhile, I need to go hide all the mirrors in my stories so my characters don't describe themselves from their reflections.

Happy Wednesday!

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