This week’s video offers five good reasons you shouldn’t describe your character by having him look at himself in a mirror.
Today, I want to discuss a simple but important “don’t” of how to describe your character. And that’s simply this: Don’t describe your character by having him look at himself in a mirror. On the surface, this may seem like a great way to give your narrating character a reason to describe himself, while staying in POV. But it’s really not, and here are five good reasons why:
1. More often than not, it’s going to make your character sound really self-obsessed. How many of us get up in the morning, look into the mirror, and take note of our hair and eye color, much less study every minute feature?
2. Frankly, this kind of character description is boring. Most readers simply do not care that your protagonist has ivory skin, big blue eyes, and gobs of silky black hair. They’re going to appreciate a few physical details, but what they really care about is the character’s personality.
3. The reason it’s boring is that it’s often nothing more than an info dump. Usually, it ends up as a grocery list of descriptors that fails to add any kind characterization or plot advancement.
4. It’s contrived. To anybody who’s got his thinking cap on, it’s going to pretty obvious that the only reason the character is looking in the mirror and describing herself is so that you, the author, will have an excuse to spout off this misplaced description.
5. Finally, even if some of your readers fail to notice this clumsy technique, you can bet you’re going to magnificently annoy any and all fellow authors who happen to be reading your book—because they will notice.