No, no, I kid! Come back. I promise they won’t look like them. And I promise I’m not going to talk about them either. I mostly brought them up because when it comes to appearance, characters with features similar to Barbie and Ken are the most cliché. I admit that I myself have included this cliché in one story at one point in my life, but that’s beyond us now.
The appearance of characters is arguably important. There are some authors who put too much emphasis on how a character looks, some who mention it in passing, and others who leave it up to the imagination of the reader. I’m of the second type; I only mention the characteristics in passing and only when needed, and never more than once. I also try not to use extraordinary features, but mostly stick to ones we see every day.
At one point in my life though, I kept what I call “Appearance Sheets”. Each separate sheet described a particular feature. For example, the “Eye Sheet” listed all possible eye colours and shapes, including violet and red, and slanting and narrowed; the “Hair Sheet” listed things like curly and wavy, and blue and orange… and so on. Every time I wanted to create a new character, I would consult my sheets and put together something you’d mostly likely see in anime shows. I never wanted my characters to be normal; I wanted them to be special and beautiful and unlike anyone I’d ever seen. Even the villains had to be moderately good-looking! I daresay that some of them even beat Barbie and Ken by miles, and they had better names like Giovanni, Dimitri, Tatiana and Annaliese (yes, I also have Name Sheets).
I’ve tossed those sheets away now, and very rarely do I think ahead about the appearance of my characters. I try to give the readers a brief outline so they may be able to picture them in their heads, but I don’t overwhelm this with details about their lustrous hair, long lashes, full lips, smouldering eyes or creamy skin. When it comes down to it, the important thing about a book is its plot and the personality of its characters, not their appearance. In my personal opinion, unless the novel is about the beauty of a certain character, unnecessary flashiness simply distracts from the actual story.
So what do you think? Do appearances really matter? Do you go to great lengths to describe your characters, or do you settle for a few features scattered here and there?