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 Posting a reply to post #4643

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4643 No.4643
How important is a character's looks to a reader? I mean, a comparison in a modern-based story where the main character is a dude with dreadlocks and a beard, instead of, for example, pic related.

Or does it all come down to writing skills and personality of the character?

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How important a character's looks are depends on whether you're using their appearance to indicate their character type, setting, background details, or whether you're just filling space by telling us how pretty something is.

Dude with dreads and beard could be an indication a stereotypical stoner dude, laid back or maybe into shady dealings. Or dude with dreads could be highly literate, a wealthy and upstanding member of the community who just happens to wear dreads.

Depends entirely on whether you want to use little sort of cultural tropes as nods and indicators to character type or whether appearance is entirely incidental.

As a reader, I don't much care what a character looks like beyond a basic description - I'm more interested in the character development. But appearance is useful, and I'd certainly not discount it. Well tailored clothing indicates wealth and sophistication. Scarring can indicate a murky history that may bear investigation. You can even pull a double-bluff and have a perky bimbo in minimal clothing who later turns out to be sharply intelligent with a viciously mathematical mind.

If you use appearance as filler instead of as useful content, make sure you know which market you're writing for. Twilight fangirls may love needless descriptions, but a lot of others don't.

What he said.

I usually don't remember what a character looks like, unless it's repeated very often, has an impact on the story or if the appearance of the character is especially strange(bizarre hair/eye colour for instance).

If the person in question looks normal(as in what you might see outside in the street and not really pay attention to), then the reader probably won't care enough to remember and instead creates a fixed image of the character in his head which he "looks" at whenever the character does something.

Of course, as mentioned, the more out of the ordinary a character's appearance is, the more likely the reader is to expect something out from the appearance. If the character has attributes that are out of the norm, it is expected that they mean something.

Yet, if the character has a drawn portrait, it suddenly matters a lot more. Since the reader can't imagine the character, but instead relies on the picture, it is more meaningful, even the character looks quite normal.

I can't remember any character's physical appearance being important in a book except in say The Portrait of Dorian Grey

Other than that, all the books I read usually provide a physical description as to the state the character is in (i.e. he ran through the dark streets in tattered clothing) and that's it.

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Descriptions are important if they tell us something about the character. The readers won't remember if your protagonist has blue or green eyes, if his hair is dark or light brown or the colour of every piece of clothing he wears but they will remember the scar he got in the car accident that killed his wife or his hunched posture and his nervous tics.

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