Friday Dish: Building the Character VI

Oh to behold beauty is divine, but only in your eyes.

I talked yesterday about the importance of physical attraction. So today I am talking about how I attractify (ha, that’s not a word) my leading man and woman.

Despite what some may think, I’m more personality driven when I know the person. So with my characters in my mind I’m not focused on is it a six pack or not a six pack thinking. But being a writer I do realize readers want to know what the characters look like. Some people like to replace the leading lady with images of themselves, heck, I used to do that even when I knew the woman was blond, tall, thin, and had big breasts. Yeah, in my mind she was short, skinny, and not so well endowed. Still, it’s a good thing, as a writer, to give a detailed description of characters.

So how do I build my characters? It’s complicated. This is a rough look at how I start.

  1. Ethnicity. Is my leading man of Japanese ancestry? Is he Irish, Native American, and if he is Native what tribe is he from? I tend to pick the two tribes that my mother’s father was a product of because I like to explore for my own sake. He was dead before I was born so I never met him. Anyway, I need to know what my leading guy has in his blood line. What was his father and what was his mother? Is he an ethnic blend, or is he more close to being considered full blood of any ethnicity? Once I know that I move on to the next part.
  2. Physicality. Certain ethnic backgrounds have recognizable features, but no ethnicity is a monolith. So I try to balance what is a usual bone structure and look and mix it with diversity. So does my leading man have a keen nose, a wide nose, a short nose, a crooked nose? Does he have high cheekbones? What is the shape of his eyes, his mouth, his bone structure? Once I have that I move forward.
  3. Appearance. Does my leading guy have any scars, tattoos, physical handicaps? What color is his hair, his eyes, his skin? Ethnicity kind of helps me here, but again, no ethnicity is a monolith so skin tone varies. He could be dark, light, red or pale white. It’s just one of those beautiful things in humanity that we are all different and there are so many different shades of people out there. I work on those parts of physical appearance and then I figure what the body looks like. Of course I have to know my leading man, and woman, to get this.
  4. Body type. If my leading guy is an avid mountain climber, health nut ;), football player, jogger, or just a guy who gets the minimum fitness in three days a week then I can decide what his body looks like. I can figure if he has hard muscles or softly defined muscles (you know, muscles with a little fat masking their definition). I can also start to think if I want him tall. I usually do. I like tall men so tall is kind of a given for me. It takes a while for me to write a short guy. Sorry short guys…I try.

There are so many things that come from knowing all of the above, but this is not the limit of what I work with when I’m building my characters in my mind and on the page. In my mind when the movie starts rolling a lot of this is just a given, but when I start writing I have to build the character more.

That being said, I am not an outline type person. I have not been the type to take notes to physical appearance of each character either. That’s not how I write and sometimes that comes back to bite me in the butt when one story turns into a massive series.

I’ll be talking more about writing coming the new week starting Sunday with the Fly on the Wall posts. Tomorrow is for Grow with Words.

Don’t forget to drop me a note through the contact form if you’d like for me to talk about something within writing specifically. I have topics coming up but I’m sure I can work some more in too.

That’s all for this time. More Dish next week, same time, same place.

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