Thread: Main Character?
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Old August 8th, 2010 (9:59 PM).
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Yuoaman Yuoaman is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Ontario, Canada
Age: 23
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Nature: Relaxed
Posts: 4,674
Don't dump a ton of information about your character at any one time, it's a horrible thing to do and it pulls the reader out of the story very quickly. Slowly reveal details of the character's appearance over a period of time that is dependent on whether you're writing in third or first person (I don't write in second person, so I can't help with that).

In first person details like that are naturally going to be revealed more slowly, unless the character has a habit of looking at their reflection often (which is a valid thing to do for a vain character). The details are only going to be revealed when the character notices a change in themselves or notices the reaction of another to their appearance (e.g. The man recoiled visibly when my hat was removed, the myriad of scars crisscrossing my face have a habit of doing so to those faint of heart.).

In third person you can reveal them a tad more often as in third person it is a character watching the scene from an external viewpoint and the appearances of characters can be noted without interrupting the flow too badly (e.g. James removed his dark grey cloak and revealed that he had been wearing a rusted chain mail shirt the entire time, despite his claims of not having any gear of his own. The shirt had obviously been of a high quality at one point in time, a fact that made the others in his group reconsider the well-muscled 'street tough' who had been traveling with them thus far. Though his hands were calloused like those of a warrior, they were clean, meaning his story about living on the street was definitely concocted. When one of his companions made as if to speak James glared at them with his piercing grey eyes, ending any possible discussion on the matter.) If you notice, throughout the example information is given slowly, while the story continues around it. A bad example is one where all the information is given at one time and nothing happens at that time. (e.g. James was a tall man with grey piercing eyes, and beneath his dark grey cloak he was wearing a rusted mail shirt that had been fine at one point.

This is also a case of 'show but don't tell'. It is always much better to show a character's trait rather than telling us it. "He towered over those in his group." is much better than "He was tall." in anything.

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