As a pantster I don’t outline and plot much. Which can leave me forgetting the name of a character or changing their brown eyes to blue. Brown eyes can never be sapphire or blue eyes chocolate. And discovering that I’ve changed the color farther into my manuscript makes for tedious edits.
Two things I do to keep my characters’ appearance consistent
I create an excel spreadsheet with the physical appearances of each character. Column headings are name, occupation, eye color, hair color, height, and distinguishing marks (scars etc.) I keep it open and can easily refer to it as I craft my story. In the midst of creativity, my mind blanks on names or other details. The spreadsheet keeps me from needing to edit these errors later.
The second thing I do before I start the story is fill out a character sheet. It contains more details than the spreadsheet. The sheet helps me go into deeper details regarding my character. This is the place where their backstory can take shape.
There are a variety of character sheets available online. You can use one of those or create your own.
Here is the basic information you want to have to keep your description straight:
Name and nickname (if there is one)
Height, weight, and body type
(pear- shaped, broad shouldered, curvy, six -pack, details that plant an image in the readers mind)
Complexion ( peaches and cream, ivory, bronze, caramel. freckled, dark, maybe add a few other adjectives here in your notes so you aren’t having another character see her skin as ivory when her mother already mentioned her ivory skin. Perhaps alabaster instead.) Under complexion you might note pimples, pock marks or dry skin.
Eye color- details about eyes shape, flecks of color in the iris, ie… brown eyes with gold flicks.
Hair color- black can be raven, red can be carrot or auburn, blond is white, golden, strawberry blond, and brown can be mousy, dark, soft brown, and all of these colors can have natural highlights of red, blond or gray, even blue, purple or pink. Mention the style too. Is it long, cropped short, styled in a certain way? Fuzzy tips, freshly trimmed, in need of a haircut.
Distinguishing marks such as birthmarks, scars, dimples, odd-shaped ear, broad nostrils.
Now you’ve got a very clear picture of what your characters looks like, and this will help you keep them in focus. And as you write, sprinkling in descriptions of your characters that are consistent.
If you like, find pictures of people who remind you of your characters and put them where you can see them when you write.
Now their brown eyes will no longer change to blue.
Now that I’ve covered the basic, in my next post I’ll share some deeper questions you can ask that will fill out your character and make it easier to add deeper POV as you create your story.
What details slip your mind in a creative moment?
Notice the picture to the right was my inspiration for Jed in Rescuing Her Heart.