Hi folks! Sorry this post is a day late, but a couple of things came up and I had to reschedule. So here's Texty Tuesday on uh, Wednesday! This post is about how I go about figuring out my characters physical traits, because it's not as easy as it seems.
My fellas range anywhere from 5'4" and boyish, to 6'5" and built like a brick wall, but the two aren't always paired with each other. Opposing traits are fun, but your fellas shouldn't be caricatures, or predictable. When I start visualizing my characters, I take their personalities and who they are into consideration, as well as the story. Each author is different, some choosing to leave the physical descriptions vague, some being very specific. Personally, I like to describe my characters. Not down to the last freckle, mind you, but enough so folks can get a general idea, and then their imagination can fill in the rest.
Let's take Harlan and Nate as an example. They both start as Prohibition agents and two years later when we get to Julian's book, they're Bureau agents. They're very active fellas who get into all kinds of trouble, a lot of it involving physical brawls. Harley is a big fella, 6'5" tall, 220lbs, all hard muscle. Nathan might not be as big, but then few men are as big as Harley. Nate is still a tall fella at 6'2". He's also muscular, just with a lean, more athletic build. He probably weighs in at about 170lbs. He can also kick as much butt as Harley, and between you and me, Nate is far more dangerous. Harley has brown hair, Nate has black. Harley's eyes are hazel, Nate's are green. What these fellas do means they have to be in good shape. They were also soldiers during WWI. I wanted Nate to be the sort of fella who could not only challenge Harley mentally, but physically as well. They're physically similar in a lot of ways because as a pair, whether as teammates or lovers, that's how I saw them.
Now we'll look at two of my characters who are physically the opposite in every way. Julius and Edward. Edward is a former soldier. He's tall, strong, though not overly. I didn't need him to be as big as Harley. He's a business executive, 6'2" tall and weighs about 175lbs. Julius is a cabaret dancer. He's small, slender, and sleek like a cat. He needs to be for what he does. He's just over 5'4". Edward's got black hair, Julius is a blond. Edward's eyes are hazel, Julius' are sky blue. Edward's tan, Julius is fair skinned. Now despite Julius being the smaller of the two, he's the most fiery, has the sharpest tongue, and is pretty fearless. He's wise beyond his years and street smart. He may have been too young to go to war, but he grew up on the streets and has lead a tough life. He taught himself how to speak properly, how to carry himself, and how to protect himself. Edward is the more timid of the two, at least when it comes to the emotional side of things. They both have their strengths and weaknesses which compliment each other. I don't do weak characters, because everyone has a strength, and just because someone's small, doesn't mean they're pushovers.
Who the fellas are also tells me a lot about how they dress. Bruce is a PI in the 1930s. I see him as a noirish type detective. Physically, he's very much like Harley--built like a brick wall, though he's slightly leaner and weighs in at 200lbs. Harley, even with stubble, dresses neat and sharp. He's got the money for tailored suits, and it shows. Bruce owns maybe one or two tailored suits which he'll only wear for special occasions--should they ever come up. He's always stubbly, and will dispose of his suit jacket the first opportunity he gets, usually rolling up his sleeves to the elbows afterwards. We're lucky if he keeps his vest on. His hair's usually somewhat disheveled, he wears the same long, black overcoat, and prefers dark colors. He also sports several bruises and cuts on a somewhat regular basis. Bruce gets into a lot of brawls, seeing as how his cases tend to involve finding folks who don't want to be found. Jace was a blank clerk. He's by nature, neat and sharply dressed, not because he has the money--Jace works for Bruce now, having lost everything and ending up homeless beforehand. So he's frugal. He just has that look about him. Jace is 6' tall, has black hair and blue eyes. Bruce, for all his dark broodiness, has sandy blond hair and brown eyes.
Remember that characters--like people, communicate with more than just their words. They use their body movements, facial expressions, and physical features. Think about who your characters is, what he does, how he communicates, his type of personality. Think about how he dresses and why he dresses that way. To me, physical traits come after I know who my fella is, and don't be afraid to mix it up. Well, I hope this helps some!
So what are your favorite type of characters?