One of my favorite things about the writing prep process is fleshing out my characters. I probably get way too into this part, but it is fun to examine how they see the world, how they would handle a kitten stuck in a tree, and what they look like.
I’ve seen entire novels with hardly any physical character description, leaving a lot to the reader’s imagination. I’ve also seen novels where they was almost too much detail, and entire paragraphs were dedicated to how a character looks. I try to maintain a balance, especially with a potential ensemble cast like BLAQUE.
Mysty, the MC who pulls the whole book together, didn’t even have a face until I was finished with my first draft. I had no idea what she looked like, and so in the first draft there are no descriptions of her. Wait…she had chestnut eyes. That was about it. Then, while flipping through the Most Beautiful People issue of People (stop grumbling and let me finish), I came across a picture of Cheryl Burke without makeup on. I loved her; every thing, including her little freckles, was perfect. I had found my Mysty.
I went as far as to create a picture with my Mysty model and my Gi model side by side. As a couple, they look exactly as I want them to: at first glance, the pairing seems a bit unusual…
…but that was part of the charm. After awhile, they grew on me as being physically compatible.
I have an entire file on my computer dedicated to the “models” for my characters. When I write, though, I don’t go into massive detail. The spies, for example, have certain characteristics that have to be mentioned for identification and characterization purposes (the wild hair of the youngest spy, a formal feral child; the permanent dark bags under the eyes of the stressed team leader; the tattoo sleeve on the arm of the former gang member spy). But for the most part, unless I post the model pictures, the reader doesn’t really know what they look like.
It’s a matter of personal taste, I think, when it comes to physical descriptions. I stick to the “just enough” camp. Give the reader enough to help with characterization and identify, but not so much that they get drowned in descriptions of someone’s perfect body (*cough* Twilight *cough*).