Can A Character Be Memorable Without A Physical Description?
As I was writing my story, and really, what comes to mind every time I write a story, is the physical description of the main characters and even any character. When I write the character in a story, I have in my mind, how they look and even their mannerisms, but when it comes time to pen down those thoughts, I struggle to describe the character. Mainly because I feel when I write characters’ physical descriptions, I feel they come out sounded inauthentic, almost like distractions or deviations to the story. To be honest, while I am writing my first draft of a story, I do not focus on pinning down the physical descriptions of my characters. That is something I think about when I am going to the editing process.
One thing that is apparent when I write character descriptions is I struggle to find a place to fit in those descriptions. However, areas I have attempted to place characters’ physical descriptions are:
• When describing what they wore to an event or occasion (that way I can fit in hair color, texture, length when mentioning what they wore on their head or hair; height or weight, when mentioning the type of clothing they wore; even eye color or shape, when mentioning a key piece of jewelry or color of an outfit).
• If they touched their face or any part of the body, such as putting a hand to their chin (did they have a beard and how did it look like?), touching their hair, etc.
• When they are first presented in the story (sometimes this may be too much, but this is more likely if they are being introduced to another character in the story).
Whatever the case, even as I think and add these descriptions, I feel they are vague and do not really illustrate to the reader the true essence of the character. And though I could hint at things such as their ethnicity and culture, I wonder if that will give the reader a true sense of how the character looks like and who they are.
But maybe more important is, does any of this matter?
Does the reader really need to know how a character physically looks like? Or is it more important for the character’s personality, deeds, and individual story be of focus?
This all leads to the final questions? Can a compelling character be created without any physical descriptions? Could one write a story about a character with the reader only having their personality to connect them with? In their own minds, the reader could decide how the character physically looks to them.
For me, I think it would be interesting to read a book with the physical appearance of the character being unknown. Maybe even more challenging would be that the character’s name is unknown (maybe the character would have a stage name, such as Wonder Woman). Sure, there may be hints to the character’s gender and age, but maybe not, or not enough to determine anything unique about them. Maybe everything would be up for interpretation or speculation.
I do not know if I have come across stories with characters that are a complete mystery. Maybe some without a name, but not without a general description. But I think it would be interesting to read or write a story with a character who is a complete mystery. Part of me would think it would be easier because writing character descriptions is a little bit of a challenge for me as I said before—I usually feel they are too vague and only there because I feel they have to be. I often wonder if the reader will get a true sense of how the character looks like. I think writing a story one day with only the character’s name (or maybe not) would be something fun to do.
I guess in the end if everything fails and one cannot pen out that outstandingly unique and vivid physical character description, there is always the book cover which can feature the main character or characters for the reader to reference ☺