Do You like Detailed Character Descriptions?

By Starar Band [CC-BY-2.0],via Wikimedia

In my short stories, I’ve never gone in for detailed descriptions of characters. In my first attempt at a novel, I find I do end up describing the characters, though a very little.
 I found this on an old blog post by Janice Hardy:

 I’m the type who dislikes a lot of description, and I admit, I skim when it’s clear it’s a big “this is what stuff looks like” paragraph. Even description about a character. I’m much more interested in who they and what they’ll do than what they look like. Because of my personal feelings, I tend to be sparse when I write my own character descriptions. In fact, if I didn’t know there are folks out there who love knowing what someone looks like, I’d probably skip them altogether. 

I tend to agree with her. Physical descriptions of my characters are at best spare, even in my WIP.

As a reader, I’ve always preferred creating my own picture of the character, and find descriptions of characters especially in fantasy novels ‘firm young bosom’, ‘long, curly sideburns’ a little corny when given on their own. As part of an action or dialogue, they seem a little more apropos, provided the author avoids cliché.

So if character descriptions were steak (gross, right? lol), I’d like mine rare, medium rare at the most. I won’t bite if they’re well done.

So, dear readers and writers, how do you like your characters? Very rare, Rare, Medium-rare, or Well done?

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Add Yours
  1. Mina Lobo

    LOL, I dig this steak metaphor (possibly, 'cause I've got the munchies right not). But anyway, I reckon that if the descriptions flow easily and organically throughout the narrative, as opposed to a big info-dump, I'd consider that "well done." 🙂
    Some Dark Romantic

  2. Jeff Hargett

    I'm with you on this. I've been "called on the carpet" for not providing enough character description in my stories, but I prefer to give just an element or two and let the reader paint the rest. This holds true unless there is something important about the description: a scar that taints the character's self-image, acne to the point that people stop and point, a head that's bald because of cancer treatment, etc. To me, that's when description is important.

  3. Annalisa Crawford

    If it's important to the story, or if it's carefully done so that it doesn't stand out, then I'm happy to read it. As for writing, I'll only describe a character if it's truly essential – and there are times when it is.

    I'm also not keen on long descriptions of rolling hills!

  4. Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger

    Hi Damyanti, I actually enjoy lengthy descriptions of characters, but not all in one big chunk, it's best when it's spread throughout the whole novel so I can gather an increasingly clearer picture of a character the further I keep reading. I like to be able to picture exactly what the author wants a character to look like.

  5. Kelley Lynn

    Oh my gosh. This is SO my post. haha.

    I skim (or skip… haha) all paragraphs that look like they're description. As such I tend to have little description in my work. My publisher told me I need more, so I will definitely have to add some. The trick then is to add it in a way so that people like me won't skim 😉

  6. Madeline Jane

    A few descriptions thrown in here and there won't bother me, but any long description paragraph will. Actually, any long paragraph bothers me. 😉 Description gets especially tricky when the character is supposed to be attractive. Not everyone finds a specific stereotype attractive, so it's hard!

  7. Cindy McDonald

    When I write descriptions in my books, I write just enough to give them a basic idea, and then I let the reader take the reins, and I appreciate the same when I am reading–just enough–not too much. I suppose I'm…med rare.

  8. Lynn Proctor

    yeah i would probably have to say i prefer med rare—not much into telling all about the physical appearance unless it is useful —fun question 🙂

  9. ankewehner

    I don't like detailed descriptions. If the book is in first person or tight third person viewpoint, it tends to throw me out of the story when something is described when the viewpoint character has no apparent reason to think about it.

  10. Patricia Lynne

    There are times I tend not to go into great detail when describing something. Other times, I go overboard, but it's usually the first draft and I end up cutting most. In terms of reading, it depends on how interested I am in the story if I skim a description or not.

  11. Jo

    You know, I've never really thought about it. I do know I tend to skim long descriptions of any kind so I probably would skim character descriptions as well. Will have to take note in future.