Describing Your Protagonist’s Appearance

One of the trickiest part of drafting is describing your protagonist’s appearance. There’s certain tropes you need to avoid; The mirror trope, where your protagonist looks in the mirror and gets lost in their appearance, describing every detail; And the morning trope, where you start the story with your protagonist waking up and go through needless exposition of them stumbling around their room recalling their outfit choice and makeup. This is just a small taste of how much you really should avoid when giving out your MC’s appearance, and it can get really overwhelming at times. So what are things you can do?

One of my favourites is to compare. Use another strong character- A best friend, an enemy, a mentor -and see if they’re strikingly similar or drastically different. For instance, a tall boy with bleach blond hair and bright blue eyes, and a small girl with black hair and brown eyes. It doesn’t even need to be that distinct. This will usually be someone close in age, and someone that shows up often.

Another easy way to explain your characters’ appearances is to have another character comment on them. Think of a classmate fawning over an eye colour, or someone mocking a character’s height. The only downside to this is that you can only use it a few times, and only for small details of a person’s appearance. However, if you use this, it brings relevance into the picture. Once it’s relevant, you have a window to go through the entire look.

Use their surroundings. This has mostly the same downsides, but can work better in certain situations. Your character is too short to reach the branch, while everyone else has no difficulty. Everyone stares at your protagonist because of her purple hair. Your protagonist’s scar made him feel alienated.

The last thing, the most obvious thing, is to just have them say it. We all get caught up on the perfect timing, but the truth is, it’s all about relevance. Let your narration wander- You can edit it later -and before you know it, you’ll be slamming your fingers on the keyboard, a clear vision of your protagonist appearing on the screen.

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❤ Max

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