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23 January 2006 @ 07:13 pm
Colour me insipid  

How can one person make you feel happy and like they're driving a knife through your heart at the same time? I'd kill for an off-switch to my feelings. Literally get out an AK-47 and run amok.

Actually, though, this post was meant to host (what else?) a question. This time, regarding how 'good looks' are presented in stories, books -- anything where there's no straight visual reference. Most of the time at least one of my characters is 'good-looking,' but only in the context of the person whose POV I'm writing. I also shy away from supplying too much detail, as I find it personally stifling. Half the time I won't even mention eye colour, hair colour or physical characteristics. It reminds me too much of all those chicklit authors who have such a penchant for chest hair and air-bag muscles in their heroes; it puts me right off, because I have an obscene love for weedy, lanky Adam Brody and his ken.

So, any of you who read (and I'll assume all of you do, otherwise why the hell have you got a livejournal?), do's a favour and say yay, I like mucha descripta when it comes to the lovely lovelies, or nay, I prefer it left blank so I can fill in my own details about what makes someone a hunka hunka burnin' love in the looks department. (Call it your good deed for the day, because it'll cheer me up no end.)

My flatmates may be brain-dead morons and skangers to boot, but they're right about one thing.

Rashers? ARE SEXUAL.

And so is this.


Current Mood: melancholymelancholy
Current Music: "Feeling My Way Through The Dark," KT Tunstall
Elsie: hatin mclaggen by <lj user=iconseeyou>elsie on January 23rd, 2006 12:20 pm (UTC)
I don't mind if the author gives some description of a character IF their looks have changed from what is described in canon, like if they've aged or grown their hair out or whatever. Or if, for example, their eye color is unknown and the author wants to give them one (preferably for some literary purpose). But besides that, c'mon kids, we know what they look like!

Cannot CANNOT NO PLEASE GOD NO stand when characters are referred to as "the blond," "his grey-eyed lover," "the taller man," "the younger boy." WE. KNOW. WHAT. THEY. LOOK. LIKE. AND. HOW. OLD. THEY. ARE. Either JKR or the fic author has told us. I use their actual names or pronouns if at all possible.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: McDibbler'sscoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:22 pm (UTC)
I PWN you with my bastardisation of the bastard king of bastard corporations YAY!

Yeah, I was thinking about generally too, not just in fic. So the last point really applies ubiquitiously. I know that it freaks me out too -- I don't really know why. Same goes for 'the other'. I don't see why they can't just say 'the other boy', or even 'him', even if that is to risk mild confusion on the part of the reader.
(no subject) - elsie on January 23rd, 2006 12:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
My imaginary friend thinks I'm brilliant.: Open your eyeslanitha on January 23rd, 2006 12:22 pm (UTC)
YAY and NAY.
No chest hair...


P.S. One cannot turn off feelings. One learns a way to cope to cope. Be it through avid baking/fanfiction writing/gardening/punching pillows. So sayeth grandma.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:25 pm (UTC)
You mean ... you want loads of description and none? YOU ARE SUCH A PISCES.

Yeah. I said that really loud in class last week. Cue every older male in the class sporfling madly at my expense. Oh joy.

PPS What about all those people who don't have to do that? It's not fair!
(no subject) - lanitha on January 23rd, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lanitha on January 23rd, 2006 12:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lanitha on January 23rd, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Draco's realismscoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:28 pm (UTC)
So: clarification, but not spoon-feeding, right?
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(no subject) - scoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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every Starbucks should have a polar bear: *begs*scoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:30 pm (UTC)
You're telling me! I hate R/S! But liadliath is one talented gal.

Yes; I often find that what Pterry does, with two or three quirks, paints a more comprehensive picture than reams and reams of standardised, generic descriptions. (Now, to get some of his talent</> ...)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 25th, 2006 01:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
Ksaturnial on January 23rd, 2006 12:31 pm (UTC)
lanky, weedy guys are love. lots of love. lots and lots ad lots of love. hot, sex on a stick love. Adam Brody being a particuarly fine example.

I like to know vaugley what their hair colour is. And if they're particuarly outstanding (like, dark, or scarily OMG I need sunglasses blue) eye colour. Maybe just a wee hint - If they're tall or short, weedy or... none weedy. But only things that particuarly stand out about a person. things that you particuarly notice when you describe someone to someone else. Elsewise, I like to make up my own mind about a charater. :D
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Douglas Adamsscoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:35 pm (UTC)
You betcha. I mean, the boy I like is a lot like Adam Brody. (... well, in my head, anyway.)

Like a light sketch that you get to fill in your own colours for, right? That's what I thought everyone would say, but I was kind of wondering then, if that is the case, why there's so much purple prose out there. Still, vindication is love!
ex_ella_bane358 on January 23rd, 2006 12:36 pm (UTC)
I like a wee bit of description to at least give me a skeleton to work with, ya know? I don't need to know the exact measurement of the guy's height, but I'd like to know if he's tall or short.

I agree with you that too much description is boring to read, for me at least.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:37 pm (UTC)
So, hypothetically, if you're reading an original work, it would throw you if it was never specifially said what the people looked like? Would 'good-looking' suffice, and if that wasn't there would it be mapless?

Just interested! And Robert Jordan killed any fascination I may once have held for adjectives.
(no subject) - ex_ella_bane358 on January 23rd, 2006 12:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
i'd kiss you if you weren't so damn ugly: HP - Cedric 2takewing on January 23rd, 2006 12:39 pm (UTC)
I like to hear characters described from the point of view of the character who's seeing them, sure. I mean, sure, we might know in general that a certain character has black hair and grey eyes, but how does the character who's observing the other guy see him? Does he notice the other guy's hair style or the way his eyes stand out?

Or even, take a character who's not the best looking in canon and have ANOTHER character totally crush on him/her. What about this traditionally not-hot character does the other one see that makes them so appealing?

It's all depending on how the main character feels about the "hot" one whether or not he's going to notice these things in passing.

That probably didn't help, but um... YAY. In general. You know?
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Relax bearscoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)
I TOTALLY GET THAT! I mean, I spend half my life fancying boys who aren't traditionally good looking and swooning over their, like, teeth, and the other half looking in bewilderment at people who I wouldn't give a second glance being all loved up and adored and married and whatnot.

Yes, yes, yes. It's the reaction that's all important. I know plenty of aesthetically pleasing boys who excite no reaction in me at all. The hormones do the talking in scenes like this. Or they should.

(no subject) - takewing on January 23rd, 2006 12:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
patron saint of the mediocre: grrliz_icons; pants?thrupenny on January 23rd, 2006 12:56 pm (UTC)
I don't like too much description of physical appearances, especially if the character is supposed to be good looking, because quite often the author's idea of good looking doesn't match mine. And then it feels like the author is shouting THIS PERSON IS GORGEOUS, HOW CAN YOU NOT FIND THEM GORGEOUS YOU FREAK LONG HAIR IS THE SEXIEST THING EVER at me. And I'm all, 'ewww'. Less is definitely more.

How can one person make you feel happy and like they're driving a knife through your heart at the same time?

I wish I knew. Feelings are so sneaky and two-faced.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: The Fandomscoradh on January 23rd, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC)
That's what I think! (Although how long are we talking here? I hate buzzcuts. Curling at the nape of the neck, though, that does for me EVERY TIME.)

Deffo time to order one of them big-ass guns, then.
(no subject) - thrupenny on January 23rd, 2006 01:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 23rd, 2006 01:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Rose: Have a cookiefourth_rose on January 23rd, 2006 01:14 pm (UTC)
I think I prefer it when the author describes just a few details to show me that a character is attractive. Like only the eyes, the hands, the hair or whatever, but not all of them. So, I guess I'd be somewhere in between yay and nay...
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: boykissscoradh on January 23rd, 2006 01:16 pm (UTC)
Don't tell me, you're a Pisces too ...

Nah, I totes understand that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. But I think most people do shy away from the purple prose side of the fence!
(no subject) - fourth_rose on January 23rd, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 23rd, 2006 02:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fourth_rose on January 23rd, 2006 02:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Neal's ass is magicfatale on January 23rd, 2006 01:43 pm (UTC)
Nay, usually I find that picture I have in mind is much more attractive than the one they do. I prefer the more attractive of the two in a romance or comedy. In anything else, I find that I'm fairly neutral.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on January 23rd, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC)
That's my opie, too. I mean, chest hair. LIKE EW.
Insufferable, man.cynicalpirate on January 23rd, 2006 02:55 pm (UTC)
Rashers... of... bacon? *perplexed*

Adrien Brody has a beautiful nose. And eyes. But mostly nose. His nose was one of the five good things about King Kong.

Assuming there were five.

I am odd, and like description. Because it's weird, but it seems to take you out of yourself, and you actually see the characters more objectively and less as yours if a specific characteristic is just plonked out there. Like, I found out quite a while ago, upon a re-reading, that Holden Caulfield had a crew-cut. Which both shocked and dismayed me, as I'd envisioned him with rather Brody-like hair. (Adrien, not Adam.)

I think less description is harder - probably why I don't like doing it.

Maybe I'm biased 'cause I've just finished writing a fic chock-full of the stuff. But I'm having it beta-d, so whatev.

Oh! I've remembered what it is I like. I like starkness of prose, coupled with painstaking detail about trivialities. It doesn't matter if the triviality is a paper bag or a dead bug or someone's elbow or abdominals, though.
Insufferable, man.: gayerthanxmascynicalpirate on January 23rd, 2006 02:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, and as per my last post: YOU ARE TOO FANTASTIC TO BE ALLOWED.
(no subject) - scoradh on January 24th, 2006 10:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - cynicalpirate on January 24th, 2006 11:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 24th, 2006 10:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - cynicalpirate on January 24th, 2006 11:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 24th, 2006 11:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
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every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Barely contained gleescoradh on January 25th, 2006 12:56 am (UTC)
I love me some eyelashes. Oh god yes. For some reason, really dark thick eyelashes is one feature that makes me think, oh, he must be gorgeous. Even though they are pretty rare in real life.

It did make sense. Extremely so. It's just conveying that is what is difficult.
The Goddamn Wolf Womanslythwolf on January 23rd, 2006 04:06 pm (UTC)
Yay, because I like to see what the character whose POV it is finds attractive. I think if the author can divorce hirself from the character it works very well, but if not, then it sort of tends to be a Mary Sue anyway.

Or something.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on January 25th, 2006 12:57 am (UTC)
But there's good looking (general) and good looking (personal), which can be vastly different things. If someone is supposed to be popular and good looking, well, that can mean a whole heap of things.

But there is a wide bracket of people I know who are 'goodlooking', undeniably so. Very few of them do I find 'attractive'.
denial_girl: Good Books by misshoneybeedenial_girl on January 23rd, 2006 05:08 pm (UTC)
I agree with what others have said about giving a few physical traits but not too much. I like enough so I can get a rough picture (hair colour, maybe eyes, tall or short, chubby or slim, etc.) but could fit what I find attractive or ugly or whatever to my own views. Maybe if the narrating character is really studying another person they could notice more details, like high cheekbones, a birthmark, a scar, etc., but not to exhausting detail (a la Charlotte Bronte: "...and his forehead curved at such-and-such an angle and ENOUGH WITH THE PHRENOLOGY!"). I guess what I'm saying is that the amount of description should fit what the character (if it is from a first person or third-person limited P.O.V) would notice. Like, there shouldn't be a full-page physical breakdown of the milkman, but major characters should get a little something, especially if he/she is meeting them for the first time.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on January 25th, 2006 12:59 am (UTC)
I know that, when I write about one character studying another, I tend to get all ... environmental. Like, the sun shining on them, or the tilt of their head or the way their hair falls. I wouldn't go for the other one suddenly realising how beautiful his platinum locks are or summink.

I find that CB's style, and that of others like her, completely loses me. It's like trying to read a road map when I should be looking at the mountain range in front of me.
memory_kitchen on January 23rd, 2006 07:04 pm (UTC)
I should almost be an expert on good looks, as they are all I will write. I'm too Wildean to write works about anyone less than stunning.

Actually I don't have a method. Latest work centers around the looks of main character, so I go out of my way to carefully describe EVERYONE ELSE. So-and-so has a very crooked nose, him over there stands like a vulture and grins like a lion, she has very curly, brown hair surrounding a pointed face with eyes very close together. MC...all we know is that he is tall. We know is hair is not blonde but could be any length in any other colour. We do not know his eye colour. And he's got piano hands because duh, he plays piano. All we know for certain is that he is tall and very very good-looking. I have the other characters point this out constantly.

But for personal-good-looking (as in to only one person) I find it's usually things like eyebrows and a good, defined jaw that does it for me. Can't abide sunken-jaw eggman types, or people with funny eyebrows. Also, j'aime curly hair.

And I have a friend who looks like Adrian Brody! He's actually my very best friend. He's actually got a very good singing voice too.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: *eats hand*scoradh on January 25th, 2006 12:53 am (UTC)
Haha. Truth is, I can only do physical faults within a very narrow range. We start talking about obesity or severe acne, I'm outta there.

Just a question, are lions the one with distinctive grins? For some reason, I thought that was another animal. Regardless, I think even that tiny description there was good. Yet I don't do that myself. GAH THIS IS DIFFICULT.

J'aime curly hair aussi. And eyelashes. And stubble ...

You are too lucky. Go away from me.
(no subject) - memory_kitchen on January 25th, 2006 09:00 am (UTC) (Expand)