Sunday, March 20, 2011

Is too much description really that bad?

I like to write stories about characters with unusual coloured hair and eyes. In Echoes in the Wind the main character Echo is black with waist length green hair and matching green eyes. She is a goddess of the mountains in the story and I wanted to reflect that in her appearance. I wanted to look earthy, exotic. I'd wanted to write a story about a black woman with green hair and eyes for years. The image has been stuck in my head since high school. I just found the idea of a woman who looked like that so mystical, so magical, perfect for a fantasy novel. Narcissus was white with waist length blue/white hair and eyes that changed from blue/green/white with his emotions. In Deep Embrace the main character Perse is white with waist length blue hair and gold eyes. Her soul mate Helios is white with red/gold eyes and shoulder length red/gold hair.

Why do I make them look like this? Two reasons. Firstly, I like it. I think it makes them unique because let's face it, brown hair and green eyes is boring, it's been done to death. When I describe my characters I want them to be mystical, memorable. Secondly, I want them to stand out on a front cover. I don't want to be another faceless blonde woman or dark haired man. I want people to look at them and think 'That person is so freakishly beautiful and weird looking they HAVE to be a god or goddess!'

In my stories one of the ways people can tell if someone is a god/goddess or a descent of one is their hair or eye colour. A person who is immortal will have something weird, like blue hair and white eyes, if they have a child with a mortal and if that child has a child, their descent will be mortal but with maybe brown hair and white eyes. So hair and eye colour is important in my story. So many writers challenge me on this though. They ask "Why is it important? Can't you write a story without describing the characters in detail?"

Yes, I could. I know that too much description is bad. I try to steer clear of my main character standing in front of a window and looking at themselves. I know that is a cliche. But I will not take out character description completely. In the past I have done way, way too much. I've learnt that lesson. Less is more. I still want to mention my character's hair and eye colour. The trick is I have to learn to put in just enough description so the reader can get a basic idea of them. I can't over do it. I have to let the reader come up with the idea how a character looks. I am so paranoid about describing characters these days. I worry that it is bad writing.

But it's my style. I like to do it. I like to state clearly SHE HAD GREEN HAIR. Frankly, if I read a book that did not describe the characters at all, it would be a real weird read. I want to know if characters are white, or black, or fat or half fairy. It makes me connect more to the character and the world seem more real.

Description is like salt. A pinch is good but too much will make the pot taste shit!

I am going to continue describing my character's phsyical appearance. I will try to not go over board though! Less is more.

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