On the surface, choosing a character’s appearance seems like an easy and fun task — and in some ways it is. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent pinning character art on Pinterest when planning out my cast of characters. However, though the process is often enjoyable, crafting a character’s appearance is not as superficial as it sounds.
The picture you paint of your character tells a story in itself. The physical appearance of a character can say so much. It can lead voice to past struggles, events, and even a pre-destined future.
In my experience, the appearance of some characters come to me instantly. I know who they are, their personality and what they physically look like. However, for other characters, a fog shrouds them in my mind and I have to spend some time sharpening the picture. When this happens, I use the following formula to help me craft the character’s appearance.
Character Build: This may be determined by their social standing (skinny = poor or plump = rich), career (blacksmith = strong and abilities (slender = agile)
Character Colouring: This includes skin, hair and eye colour. Typically, this will be determined by the world, region, climate of origin – unless, of course they are an anomoly.
Angles: The angles of their face and body should parallel their build and
Distinguishable Features: Such as scars, birthmarks and freckles to elicit past battles, beauty or individuality.
Style: A reflection of personality, flaws, career and social standing. Are they rebellious? Then perhaps they will dress unlike the others in their class. Do they like the finer things in life? If so, maybe they attend every even with a different statement necklace. Do they stick to the shadows?
Bonus Tip: Each of your characters should be distinguishable by their appearance alone. The last thing you want to do is confuse your reader by having a cast of characters that are near identical. Make each of your characters are unique to help diversify your cast and world.