How To Capture Your Character’s Appearance

My mini-blog series of character development has come to its last post. Here are all the previous factors if you’ve missed out.

  1. Backstory and Flashbacks
  2. Character’s Voice and Dialogue.
  3. Values and Beliefs
  4. Goals and Motivations

In the last post of character development, I will be discussing how to capture your character’s appearance.

Descriptions of or references to your characters, their belongings, and their immediate surroundings say much about the people. Your characters appearance takes more than just looks to create a well-rounded character but other traits such as behaviour can depict and show instead of tell, the appearance of your character.

Here are three aspects of appearance that should develop your characters.

1. Appearance

Writers are naturally inclined to make their main characters especially attractive unless they believe there is a very good reason to do otherwise: The character wishes to avoid attention, the story has an ugly duckling theme, or the character is reprehensible (in which case they might nevertheless be, for contrast, extremely good looking).

Don’t introduce your character with an extensive physical appraisal, but sprinkle hints about their appearance throughout your story or don’t — many great works of literature don’t describe main characters’ looks at all. Make sure that physical features are consistent with that person’s ethnic origins unless there’s a good reason for exceptions. Lay out a few key details when a character is first introduced — just enough to give readers a basic understanding of their appearance — then weave in any further descriptors slowly throughout the story, and only if truly necessary.

Remember, less is more. 

If you do want readers to visualize your conception of the character, consider not just physical characteristics but also carriage and comportment. How your character behaves and moves shows their appearance and personality.

2. Attire

How do your characters dress? The period and locale will determine the general costume, but personality is still easily conveyed within these parameters. It shows the reader where and what kind of family and environment your character is from.

3. Physical Actions

What facial expressions does your character employ? Are they self-conscious about them, or are they natural, or does it depend? If the character is physically demonstrative, how is this characteristic conveyed?

Your characters physical actions show the readers the inner journey. For example, your protagonist is struggling with severe depression; he/she may be showing signs of weight loss, disheveled hair, or fatigue. Or maybe your main character is intensely excited; express this by giving his or her cheeks a rosy glow or an impeccable wardrobe to suit his or her pleasant mood. Using physical characteristics and actions to reflect inner emotions will allow you to remind the reader of certain important aspects of a character’s mental state in a more subtle manner, so you don’t overuse internal dialogue or omniscient narration.


That wraps up my mini-series for character development. I hope you enjoyed it and I wish the very best for your story and characters.


If you have any more questions on character development, make sure you post your questions, comments or/ and answers below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view, questions or an answer, please invite them or share this post with them.

Stay tuned for my next mini-series. 


#DouglasWTSmith #characterdevelopment

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3 thoughts on “How To Capture Your Character’s Appearance

  1. Pingback: How To Build Suspense In Your Novel | Douglas W. T. Smith

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