Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Musings: The Physical

Happy Sunday.

If you've been joining us each Sunday, you know we've talked the emotional and mental aspects of our characters. Today we want to visit the physical.

As writers we need to know everything about the characters we write about, even if we never shared all the details with you the reader. And sometimes these fictional characters still surprise us. On to our Musers...

 I have a detailed character profile of questions and answers which I use to create my main characters. I fill these in before I begin a novel. By the time I begin to write I know exactly what my hero, heroine and other important protagonists look like. However, physical appearance goes beyond the colour of hair and eyes, complexion, height and imperfections such as a scar or a birthmark. I ask myself how they walk, how they speak, if their hands are still or restless, in other words, what does their body language tell me about them?

When I write, I can see the characters and the story unfolding in my imagination as vividly as watching a film, so I know exactly what my characters look like. However, unless a character has a particular physical attribute which is relevant to the plot, I don't give long descriptions of my characters' appearances. I try to show, not tell, what they look like and so give only a vague outline which I hope readers are happy to develop in their imaginations, building an image which is 'owned' by them and not imposed by me.

One of the ways you can tell the difference between characters is their physical appearance. The two main characters of my first book If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, were very different in body type. Carolyn was a little chubby and she had brown very curly hair. Jennifer was the perfect body type. She was a gymnast and had long blonde straight hair. Even Carolyn’s friends were different from she was. Becky and Janie were totally different. They had different interests and body types. One was a dancer and the other an artist. The dancer had a lean body and the artist had a more rounded body. Their eye color was different too. As far as the guys in the book, Brad, Jennifer’s boyfriend had the body of a well-built football player in high school. While John, Carolyn’s boyfriend, is cute, but he doesn’t have the same body type. He is more the normal high school boy who is fit but not a football player.

In After, Lauren has a lean and athletic body, while her friend Joey has more of a baseball player’s body. Lauren’s sister, Diane has a normal high school girl’s body and her friend Jenny is a swimmer. So Jenny has a swimmer’s body with broader shoulders. You can tell each of these characters apart very easily. Amber, the mean girl, has the shape of a thin but curvy girl and some might think she looked sexy.

I'll deal with the men and women separately.

My male protagonists share certain physical characteristics dictated by their life situations and recent past.  Whether military or recent military, police, or civilian living on rim planets or in a situation requiring heavy physical labor, they cannot afford to be flabby.  Most are moderately tall and of slender, "whiplash" build, well although not heavily muscled.  Important secondary men can be taller and bulkier, but no one looks like a cartoon hero.  In facial appearance, they are well or pleasant looking, not movie-star types simply because this is my own preference.  There are exceptions, of course.  Gray Jack Dundee (STAND AT CORNITH and the Star Commandos series) has a stocky build. The protagonist of SURVIVOR had just recovered from a near-fatal illness and began the book as a near walking skeleton.  Complexions are quite fair given the Irish heritage of most of them.  Varn from the Star Commandos books is an Arcturian and has their light olive skin.

As is true of their male counterparts, my female leads are also usually fairly tall, slender, and nicely made, again in keeping with their ongoing strenuous lifestyles.  They are not fashion model types but are fit, active women strong in body as they are in mind and spirit.  Most are quite beautiful and have complexions reflecting their Celtic forebears.  Hair is often some shade of auburn or red.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

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