June 7th, 2012, 03:01 AM
Finger/hand through x coloured hair
Here's something that annoys me a little in my local writing group.
"She ran a finger through her straw coloured hair."
I've seen that no less than six times in the half of the year so far. Is that a distinctly local thing, or something that everyone does? Is it just a weak excuse for describing hair colour, in-action? Is it a failing of the author to adequately describe the character any other way? Is it exactly the same kind of crutch-excuse-thing as "He glanced in the mirror/pool"?
June 7th, 2012, 05:01 AM
Locked in the Golden Cage
I've never found it bothered me. I've used it once or twice but most of the time I have different characters describe eachother in different ways based on how they perceive one another.
/Shrug. That's my penny.
June 7th, 2012, 07:39 AM
The Road Goes Ever On
It's something that both bugs me and something that I find myself defaulting to now and again. I personally think it's either lazy description or force of habit.
June 7th, 2012, 08:28 AM
Or it's using something people often do to make a point.
June 7th, 2012, 08:55 AM
Better this than "She had straw colored hair." Still, not the most colorful crayon in the box.
June 7th, 2012, 09:23 AM
Pro Bono Graphic Designer
Hmm, now I'm curious if I've ever done that.
I don't really think so; my characters are not so typically vain. I think I have one that pushes her bang out of her face, and that was when I took the opp to describe her hair color.
Last edited by virangelus; June 7th, 2012 at 09:26 AM.
June 11th, 2012, 01:06 PM
Readers vary in their taste for physical descriptions of characters--my personal feeling (and thus how I tend to write) is that we are all judged by our appearance, to some degree--including self-judging. So it's reasonable, with fictional characters, to use their appearance as something that affects other characters and also affects their perception of themselves. Any physical characteristic that has plot-relevance (that changes how they're treated, that changes their motivations) can be and should be mentioned, but it can be done in various ways.
Others can mention it (catcall from construction worker--"Hey--you with the big jugs--wanna meet me after work?"), the character can think it ("It was hell not being able to walk down the street without some redneck yelling at her or making slurping noises; she wished she could afford the surgery...") , the author can state it as part of character-defining behavior ("She stared for a moment at the sleek manniquins in the Victoria's Secret window; no one with double-Ds could wear--let alone needed--a lace push-up bra...") or simply state it as a characteristic ("Ann had the kind of figure that generated catcalls--over-generous breasts above a small waist and neat hips...")
The best way to convey plot-relevant character appearance depends on the POV, the importance of that appearance to the plot, its importance to the plot at that moment, and the length of the story. To use the same examples: in a short story, the author might introduce Ann with the last fprm: author statement of characteristic, if the story is about her attempt to finance the surgery she wants. It gives an immediate motivation for her to seek the surgery. In a novel about a character troubled from puberty by the public's reaction to her appearance, and her appearance's effect on her life choices (several, if not most, sports will not accept her, for instance--gymastics, riding, swimming at the least--and so is high-fashion runway modeling. She will be plagued by unwanted sexual harassment in business and academia), multiple mentions would not be amiss: the catcalls, her thoughts about the catcalls, her resentment of women who tell her she's lucky, her resentment that she can't afford reduction surgery, etc. But if the story just mentions her bra size without any plot-relevance...then it's useless detail.
People (of both genders) do run their fingers/hands through/over their hair--and using that gesture isn't wrong in itself--but it still has to have plot-relevance. It must reveal character (not just appearance) and do something to advance the plot. The person with straw-colored hair has an attitude about his/her hair--an attitude derived in part from the reactions of others to it. If that matters--put it in. If you're writing in a society that's mostly shades of blond, then probably it's of no matter.