Sunday, October 19, 2014

Make You Characters Ugly

So, while I am incredibly busy, I have still found some time to indulge in the wonderful thing that is Pinterest.  There is no shortage of writers on Pinterest. As I've been exploring writing boards on Pinterest, one thing I see all the time is character boards. Those are super fun! And I understand the temptation to find real life people that help you to envision your characters. However, this temptation, I think, can be dangerous.

Here's the thing. Actors, or for the most part, any people photos on Pinterest are beautiful.  You know. They're models who've had experts do their makeup, take their photos, and then retouch theirs photos before releasing them to the general public. These photographs are not real life. They are not even approximations of real life where no one ever has bad hair days or acne.

When you cast actors as your characters, you describe your characters the way that actors present themselves. So you write characters that are beautiful. Not just normally beautiful, like the way you and your closest friends are beautiful because you know them so well. No, Instead you write characters that are all, one after the other, the cookie cutter version of beautiful, the version manufactured by Hollywood.

Please don't hear this next part as Hollywood bashing. I like movies. I like TV, and on-screen characters. However, there's a reason books continue to sell, and that is because they offer things different from television.  So then, as writers, shouldn't we strive to offer a completely different experience than Hollywood?

So, I suppose I'm not asking you to make your characters ugly, per se, I'm asking you to make them human. I'm asking you to remember that most people have frizzy hair, or a mole on their face, or stubby fingers that they hate. You can use that. Use it to strengthen your characters. Use it to make them more realistic. When you cast some beautiful young actor as your next  love interest, make them a little more human, a little shy of physical perfection.

Thanks for reading. Also, let this article serve as official notice that I'm not dead.


  1. I totally agree with you. I also think that it can be hard for writers to make our characters, whom we love to death, have faults :)

  2. Awesome post. This is why I never found a good picture of the man my MC will eventually marry, because he isn't pretty, he kind of looks like a pirate (he isn't one, but all my MC's friends will refer to him as "the pirate" to tease her) and he's missing one ear. I completely agree with what you said about it making characters see, human. Yes yes yes.

    Also, yay for not being dead!

  3. It seems that physical perfection is the standard, especially in Fantasy novels. It's a little bit unfair, come to think of it. But you're absolutely right—perfection pales in comparison to "real" appearances.

  4. I agree. I love picking pictures out because the visual really helps me write, but I use it more for facial expressions and moods than for the flawless skin and perfect beach curls.

  5. Ah, so true! Though I am a visual learner--and the pictures help me out a lot--I don't like how it's pretty much impossible to find a good picture of an imperfect character.
    Sometimes I try to use actors from movies or TV shows. It's easier to find pictures of imperfect people that way.

  6. Very true! As I was writing my story I had to keep this thought in mind!

  7. I think the issue is most writers know that if their book is turned into a movie these are the people who will play their character anyway.

  8. Love this!! I think it's hard finding great photographs of real looking people on Pinterest. I recommend finding stock images and similar on Deviantart, it's a great place to find amazing photography and 'real' looking people.

    P.S. I miss your posts!!

  9. YES! THANK YOU! I'm sick of reading about beautiful, perfect people with beautiful, perfect lives. Real people have scars and stretch marks and flaws. I want to read about THOSE people. Excellent post! Keep up the good work. :)


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