I have a problem.
As I was trying to re-work the description of my MC yesterday, I really struggled. Even though I’d “talked” to Xander, looked at promising photo examples, and come up with a general idea of his looks, I STILL can’t really picture his face. So, I thought about my other characters. The important ones have very clear descriptions and unique appearances, but when I try to picture the face I’ve described, they’re all fuzzy and out of focus.
After failing with my own characters, I tried to picture people from my favorite fiction books. Their body types, clothes, and hairstyles—even their general face shapes—were clear. The details of their faces? Like looking through frosted glass.
I think I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve always had trouble remembering (real) people’s faces, and it can be a bit of a problem. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been comfortable with eye contact and don’t look at someone long enough to retain their appearance. I glance at people and away quickly, using my “emotional sponge” ability to navigate the conversation. Or maybe that doesn’t matter. Do you remember those stranger danger things they did in elementary school, where they showed you a cardboard cutout of someone for 15 seconds and then turned it away to see how many details you could remember? Let’s just say I’m glad those weren’t graded encounters…
It can take meeting someone five or more times for me to pick them out of a crowd, and I might not recognize them if they changed their makeup, hair, clothes style, or when I see them out of their “normal” environment (like, if I work with someone and then see them at Walmart, their face might not register). Oddly enough, people’s voices or the way they move their body is a more helpful indicator of who a person is for me.
That seems like a pretty big handicap for an author.
So, what am I going to do about it? Read. I’m going to read through character descriptions until I have a handle on how to be just detailed enough for the reader to fill in the gaps my mind can’t see. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be a good thing in the end, because I won’t over-describe, making it impossible for the reader to have their own ideas.
On another note, I apologize for not being as active the last month or so. It’s been busy and the holiday season promises to continue on that path.
I wish you all the best of luck on whatever your current endeavors are, and hope your holidays are happy.