blond vs. blonde, deadpool, describing hair and movement, hair and dialogue tag, hair color in writing, how to write a character's hair, improving character descriptions, physically describing characters, telling in writing
Today’s entry is about writing mechanics, and even though I am well into my Dear Author blog series, it’s always good to share and exchange information with others about the writing process.
This morning (or when I started writing this post) while I was making coffee I ended up watching a video about Madonna’s hairstyles. Facebook is a time-sucker. They interchanged “blonde” and “blond” in the text, so it was time for me to share what my editor explained to me.
Hair is important, and not just when you’re Madonna. It’s the first thing and sometimes the only thing casting directors pay attention to when choosing people to play younger versions of a protagonist (mismatched eyes in flashbacks are a huge pet peeve for me).
I’m not alone. 🙂
Back to the point…What should you keep in mind concerning writing about hair color?
Blonde, is usually feminine, whereas blond without the “e” is masculine. The English language doesn’t pay too much attention to gender, however, the blondes are something I notice greatly now. When in doubt, sticking with “blond” is acceptable for boys and girls alike. I like using the two different forms just as I use different spellings for accents.
Locks. I hesitate to use “locks” because to me it means dreadlocks, or I get the vision of Goldilocks in my head, and all of her ringlet curls. It isn’t a word I usually use to describe men’s hair. Locks to me means curly and separated. I will have characters with dreadlocks at some point and don’t know why they haven’t showed up yet. Two have already been written.
Colors. I know you probably have colors down. Black. Brown. Red. Blond. and then some extras too: Raven. Platinum. Ginger. If you find your colors stagnant, a thesaurus will do the trick.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL CONCERNING DESCRIBING HAIR:
“Telling” what hair looks like is not describing hair to the best of your abilities. When you describe a character’s hair or eye color, it should never start with “He had -such and such color- hair.” That is a telling description and interrupts the reader, and now I’m going to get distracted and go watch Deadpool. There has to be action going on with your hair description to keep me interested in your book.
Ways to show hair:
1.Movement from the character to show emotion. Your character moves his or her hair some way, showing us they are nervous or amused. Yeah, tucking hair behind the ear gets old, but not if your character has protruding ears (true story), just don’t use it for everyone. If your character is running a hand through their hair, what does that tell the narrator? “She ran a hand through her hair, which meant that she was____” nervous? thinking? contemplating something? Did a character fix his hair subconsciously because his crush just walked into the room? There are many emotional reasons for your characters to move their own hair unless they “Shane it off” (buzz cut), but even then, your character can scratch an itch on his scalp to show you the color of short hair. One great way to describe hair is my showing the behavior your characters shows in moving their own hair.
2. The hair is moving. When you characters naturally move, their hair might too. “I nodded, and my black ponytail grazed the middle of my back,” would show that a character has long, dark hair. “She looked downward, making the brunette fringe around her face fall into her azure eyes,” describes the hair color and eye color, and perhaps behavior, in that she is looking down. The wind can move the hair. A breeze from a shutting door can. Another character can move another characters hair (especially depending on your genre and the character’s personal bubble). Something external will always be there to move hair.
3. Hair can reinforce a dialogue tag or expression. “‘Not really,’ she said, her red hair blazing angrily around her face as she shook.” Hmmm, I made someone mad, didn’t I? “His eyes were empty, and his pin-straight dark hair sat just as still as his expression.” In that example the hair is matching his face, but again, it’s not about the hair, it’s about the movement or lack of movement in the character.
Your characters need to pop off of the pages and become 3-D, especially after you spent weeks writing your book! WEEKS! MONTHS! YEARS! Hang your sentences that start with “He had” or “She had” in describing hair, and play with movement and dialogue. Don’t give a missing person’s description of your character when you want them to be present.
Luckily, most writers can go back and edit their books later, and if you do so, it’s worth the time to rework showing descriptions of visual attributes and finding the places in which you were a little too telling.
Happy writing! Make sure you follow my blog for more tips!