Lev the Russian immigrant is riding the train to his new home in England. Next to him is seated a woman who is described as having a mole flecked face. Instantly my mind sees a snapshot of eastern European peasant resplendent with babushka and shabby dress. As the scene unfolds he speaks to her and we find her name is Lyda. My mind goes to images of women I know named Lyda. The conversation between Lev and Lyda reveals she is an English teacher who has a job doing translation in London. Now her whole appearance changes for me. She is in more modern clothes, thinner, stylish hair and proper manners.
The Road Home by Rose Tremain contains other character description that mirror life. First impressions of people are garnered by one character quality or physical attribute. I remember a friend whose ears I thought were enormous but over time his whole face seemed to balance before my eyes. Rose captured that morphing in those few sentences. Later when Lev visits Lyda in her London home more of her character is revealed. Nuisances of her loneliness that mirror his change Lev’s initial view of her. She appears even more attractive her moles are a non-issue.
In life our first impression of an individual may evolve around a single facial quality. It might be shapely lips, deep blue eyes, scars, perhaps a crooked nose that eventual blend into the whole of the face as we get to know them. As a reader we should experience the same thing. The shapely lips may take on a wicked sneer and the crooked nose a regal air. As the character develops we notice feature chances as well. The red scar is overshadowed by a smile of compassion when he rescues our heroine from her greatest fear. Or the large eared man sets the single mom’s heart a flutter when he spends time helping her awkward son make the baseball team.
As you read through your not-yet publish work how quickly have you described your character? Have you left something for other characters to reveal to your reader? Does your characters appearance change for the reader as his relationships change with those around him. Does her vain appearance become more subdued when adversity comes? What do we learn about your character as describe by others?