Thankfully, my case of writer's block seems to have cleared up.  Today's writing task was to introduce a new and important character into the story.  This character is to be handsome and charming, and a possible love interest for my heroine.  It seemed, then, that writing his physical description was important.  This is what I wrote:

"Up close I could see that XXX was indeed a handsome man.  He had brown eyes and a thin brown mustache.  His hair, which fell to his shoulders in loose brown waves, appeared to be his own and not a periwig.  When he smiled, the left side of his mouth raised slightly higher than the right, revealing straight white teeth.  His manner of dress was fashionable but not foppish."

Is it just me, or does this guy sound a little like Rhett Butler?

It's moments like this that I am reminded that I am new to fiction writing and that I've got a lot to learn.  To that end, today did some reading of On Writing by Stephen King. 

I still struggle with descriptions, particularly, how much description to give.  Coincidentally, that is exactly the topic I happened upon in On Writing.  King confirms what I already suspected was true–belaboring a description is as tedious for the writer as it is for the reader.

My job here is to convey a not only a sense of what he looks like, but also to convey my heroine's interest.  How do do this effectively remains the question.  One thing is clear–I'm going to have to find a few other handsome-male-rogue-archetypes besides Rhett Butler (I say this because this is not the only male character in the story who somehow bears a striking resemblence to Mr. Butler).  Any suggestions?

I only include this writing sample because I know it won't appear like this in the finished manuscript.  To find out what XXX ends up looking like and how I describe him, you'll have to wait for publication.

4 Replies to “Why Does Every Male Look Like Rhett Butler?”

  1. Mike says: April 17, 2009 at 6:17 am

    I think the mention of the thin brown mustache is what conjures up the image of Rhett Butler. Of course, many readers will take your description and “cast” their own actor in the role. Give his hair a bit of curl and make his frame short but sinewy and you’ve got Patrick Swayze; straight hair of a lighter shade (and a fake tan) and you’ve got Kevin Costner; a brawny body and an accent that says he isn’t a local, maybe Eric Bana or Russell Crowe….
    Maybe you could give your character a physical trait that would make his appearance stand out from the other characters: heterochromia, a limp (how was he injured?), missing fingers (accident, or a punishment for a past crime?).
    Try poking through some of the Sue Grafton novels and read some of the passages where she brings a new character onto the stage. I can’t tell you how she does it, but she has a gift for creating characters that can be instantly recalled (at least for me). I think the trick is to find just the right amount of description, so the reader’s imagination can do the rest.

  2. Antoinette says: April 17, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I don’t think it sounds like Rhett. His hair was shorter, moustache bushier and he actually had quite yellow teeth (before the age of Zoom and his smoked a lot.) I would also change “brown hair” to “chestnut” since you said his eyes were brown. But that’s just my 2 cents.

  3. heather says: April 18, 2009 at 12:04 am

    I think I’d reveal the description interspersed with dialogue or just eye contact or some other action.
    Let it unfold as we as the reader see through her eyes what causes her to find him attractive. More voyeuristic and vicarious.
    A scar might be good, but put it somewhere unexpected, like his hand. The scar “thing” has been done, but done right, I think it’s still effective.
    Feel free to ignore anything I’ve told you! LOL

  4. morgan says: April 19, 2009 at 11:03 am

    By the way, I like your new profile pic. I can see it on the back of a book jacket now!

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