“Beautiful” or “What Does Your Character’s Face Say About You, Them, and the World’s Eyesight?”

Prompted, in part, by this blog post I read, today I reflect upon beautiful characters.

Sometimes I look at the collection of people I’ve created and pal around with, and I wonder: Do I write an inordinate number of characters “having qualities that delight the senses, especially the sense of sight”? Are their looks a blatant reflection of what I wish my mind’s eye to shamelessly gaze upon?

To some extent, yeah, probably. But there’s more to the story than that.

Take my tailor / life coach, Edgwyn. I happen to find him unfairly attractive, but I recognize that he may not be everybody’s type. That said, a lot of ladies in his world are attracted to him, too. Part of that is due to his being reasonably handsome – facial symmetry, glow of good health, good hair, that sort of thing.

But what really gets the gals’ attention (and mine) is his smile – twinkly-eyed, friendly, full of genuine warmth and love. It’s a smile that says, “I like you. You’re important to me. I wish you every good thing in the world.” People are drawn to that. That smile is an outward manifestation of his heart. Can I help it if his inner beauty makes his outside all the more beautiful to me? Particularly when he looks an exhausted mess after doing philanthropic things way past his bedtime. (:

The smile, as close as I can sketch it.

The smile, as close as I can sketch it.

Meanwhile, in a magical Renaissance Faire, you’ve got one of my most physically beautiful characters… no, Will, I’m not talking about you. I’m referring to Allyn-a-Dale. Oddly enough, I didn’t intend to make him extraordinarily good-looking, and didn’t even notice that I had until a couple months after I’d written his first book. How’d that happen?? Well, I blame his childhood.

Allyn wasn’t raised around mirrors. The only face he saw regularly was that of his father, a.k.a. the supreme and unattainable standard for everything. Father’s face was beautiful. Every other face was therefore lesser. Allyn barely knew what he looked like, and he didn’t care. And that attitude subliminally influenced his author’s early perception of him.

Don’t worry, I caught on eventually.

Don’t worry, I caught on eventually.

So, what can we learn from all this? One might think the moral of the story is that characters’ looks don’t matter, since what the character, their fellow characters, and we on the other side of the page will see may not have much to do with their actual faces. Sure, I can concede some partial truth, there.

On the other hand, that very disconnect between what’s really there and what we see can be used to the writer’s advantage. You think I knew the psychology behind the Allyn example all along? Nope! I had to figure it out once I realized, “Hey, wait a minute… he’s gorgeous! How did he and I miss this??” The puzzle of his invisibly beautiful face forced me to root around in his mind and uncover just how badly life had messed him up. And that made really good material for his second book.

And Edgwyn’s just a shining example of what we should all aspire to be, but he doesn’t like it when I talk him up, that way, so we’ll cut this paragraph short.

At the end of the day – or at the beginning of this blog post – when I’m looking around at all my characters, the conclusion I reach is that, yeah, I’ve written some beautiful people. I’ve also written some more mediocre-looking people that still get a good share of my shameless gazing. Why? Because I love them, of course. And what you love is always beautiful, in your eyes.

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10 thoughts on ““Beautiful” or “What Does Your Character’s Face Say About You, Them, and the World’s Eyesight?”

    • Thanks; I dabble. (: My usual style is more cartoony than the headshots shown here, but with a little help from photo references to get me started, I can sometimes manage this level of realism.

  1. I am going to go do some deep thinking, too. Especially because, as Tyler-Rose could tell you, I often fail to cultivate a clear image of the things that I write–even including the main characters.

    ALSO, you have just won infinite awesome-points for linking to that song at the end of the post. I wonder if we were raised on the same movie version of that musical. 😉

    • Faces are one of the few story aspects I’m usually pretty good about visualizing. Just don’t ask me to come up with more than one or two detailed outfits per character. Or, y’know, specific scenery. You’ll be waiting a while. XP

      Yay for musical-related infinite awesome-points! It’s been years since I’ve seen the whole movie (what did we do with that VHS??), but that song and “Impossible” have stuck in my head for life. ^-^

  2. Nice sketches. I like those. Your Edgwyn reminds me of someone, but I can’t place who. This will likely annoy me for days as I try to figure it out, lol.

    I hadn’t considered how a character’s looks could affect their personality. I liked your exploring that aspect. It’s something to consider.

    I think it’s important to make sure your characters are more than just looks, that there’s some depth to them beyond being pretty. There are plenty of celebrities who are superstars for no reason other than they are good looking — someday someone must explain the Kardashians and Paris Hilton to me. We need more substance in our pop culture choices, and our fiction. Goodness knows I adore Robin and his slow, mischievous grin that can stop your heart when hit at full force, lol. But there’s a whole lot more going on with him than that. Battle scars, physical and otherwise, his utter bafflement that the rest of the world doesn’t follow that same chivalrous code he does, a tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve (and he’s making faces at that turn of phrase as I type, lol), perhaps too much fondness for ale and female company,etc.

    • Taunted by Edgwyn’s face, eh? Welcome to my world!

      I quite agree with you. Appearance does not = character. Telling what they look like doesn’t show us who they are; it’s only a part of the whole. And shallow as I can sometimes be, I’d still rather a person *act* gorgeous than look it, if it must be either/or. And if it needn’t be either/or… well, that’s where people like Robin come in, isn’t it? X)

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