Physical Traits


Image courtesy of Billy Frank Alexander Design

In my own writing, the topic of the day is: How and when is it important to know your character’s physical traits? Do you decide these early on, or as you go when the plot or character needs them?

I am currently working on a fiction piece, writing characters who have been evolving in my mind for years, who are currently only “souls” I’ve imagined.  I have some general sense of what they may look like in the human form, but not concrete enough to share in the writing.  Recently I decided it might be nice to try and find actors/actresses that I have an affinity for in light of the “feeling” these “souls” give me when I think of their situations and end game.  I’m thinking that it may have been good to figure these out before I got too far down the road with their development.  At the very least it would have given me a reference point to either agree with later or change as these characteristics are exposed through the story telling.  I think I might know them even better had I gone that route.

Assuming that the three of the most important things about the character are known when we meet them in our imagination, (sex, age, name) these are a few other things I am considering.  Of course if the trait already matters to my plot, I will spend more time on that characteristic.

Trait 2Image courtesy of sxc ba1969

Height______  Tall?  Short?  Average? .

Weight/Shape/________ Flat?  Flabby?  Rolls?  Pudgy?  Protruding?  Jiggles? Fat?  Athletic?  Big/Tall or dwarfism?

Hair color/Length_______  Crew cut? Ponytail? Bald?  Lost to cancer? (I admit, I knew this when the characters came to me.  Do they come immediately for you?)

Facial and body hair_________ Beard?  Mustache?  Back hair?

Eyes ___________  Color? Too close together?  Crossed?  Lazy?  Bloodshot?  Almond?  Glasses?

Eyebrows_________ Full?  Thin?  Fair?  Dark?  Wide spread? Connect in the middle?

Skin_____________ Tone/Color? Flabby?  Wrinkled?  Acne?  Birthmark?  Tattoos?  Scars? Body piercings?

Ears __________ Small?  Large?  Stick out?  Ear rings?  Hairy?

Nose____________ Does it turn up?  Is it broad?  Flat?  Crooked?  Nose rings?

Lips _____________Narrow?  Full?  Painted?

Teeth___________Missing?  Bucked?  Yellow?  Straight?  White?

Chest ________ Voluptuous? Flat?  Muscular?  Large?  Hairy?

Some of my characters are fully fleshed out so to speak when I create them, and others take time with lists like the above for some guidance.

How do you go about determining your character’s physical traits?

Trait 3

Image courtesy of Billy Frank Alexander Design


Filed under Art, writing

2 responses to “Physical Traits

  1. I know the general psychological traits of my characters, whether they are go getters or have to be dragged into the story, but generally, I let the needs of the story dictate who and what they are, revealing the traits one by one as needed.

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