I am writing a novel. Should I need to add Face Description ( or the personality ) of all the Characters?

Is there a template that can help me? Are there any novels that does not describe faces or personalty of any character?

  • 3
    I assume you're reading a lot. Do your favorite books provide physical descriptions? Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 13:23
  • Whether or not you should describe the face the character within the novel, I would suggest that you should certainly describe the face of the character to yourself. You should know who your characters are and what they look like, even if your readers never do. Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 5:50

3 Answers 3


It may depend on your Point of View. I think my answer is fair enough from Omniscient POV, but as I'm looking through various books lately, it may not hold for 3rd limited. I do not know for certain.

No. You do not. You especially do not need to limit yourself to the face.

However, your decision on this question will impact the story you tell and the reader's experience. You should describe traits in the service of informing the reader about character. Face is a good place to start but you can describe other things too.

Here's my advice. I am going to pan out from 'face' although some of the advice is specifically about face.

  1. For your main characters, the ones that have names and appear in many chapters, who drive the story, provide a description at the character's first appearance in the story.

    It should not be a list. Instead, you should identify traits that are distinctive and that give us insight into the character. Imagine Snape, from Harry Potter. He has long stringy hair. Or greasy hair. Or a dark curtain of hair. These ways of describing him give us an image, but also fit his personality. Hermione, on the other hand, has a mane of untamed hair. This fits her personality better - If she had greasy hair, we'd expect her to be sinister.

    It doesn't have to be hair ... You can describe shoulders: Broad or slumped or angular. You can describe eyes, cheekbones, height, weight, skin tone, general countenance, age - Any of these can be used to enhance our understanding of character.

    I like descriptions to serve as many purposes as possible. So, as an example, if I want to hint that characters are related, I'll make sure they share a physical feature.

  2. It is a good idea for your characters' physical traits to be reiterated later. Like, if Hermione has a daughter named Beatrice, she might be introduced as "Beatrice, who had straight hair, nothing at all like her mother's." This is a way to remind us that Hermione has crazy hair.

    A character trait like blue eyes can be compared to the sky, or a blue lagoon, etc. What this sort of comparison does, is avoid a simple listing of traits, and instead provides a 'feel' for the character. Green eyes like a field of new grass fits a nice person; green eyes like envy, or like a stagnant lake, does not.

  3. For your secondary characters, still named, appearing in some chapters, you still should provide a trait, this anchors their scenes a little bit. But, it can be very simple and straightforward.

    Depending how minor they are, the 'trait' could be something they typically wear. 'The chauffeur's jacket was pressed at all times, its seams crisp. His shoes were always shined. It was his effort at making up for his low station.' (or something, to indicate character.)

  4. Very minor, unnamed characters do not need to be described. "The foot soldier brought the sword.

    I have a businessman in one scene, and he is only described as 'squinting up at (main character).' I don't actually describe him at all, but his action implies that he is short and possibly older.

Have fun with it.

  • 1
    The Harry Potter example is great for this. There was misguided outcry about the stage adaptation of The Cursed Child, where Hermione was played by Naomi Dumezweni. JK Rowling herself waded into the 'debate' and pointed out that at no time whatsoever did she write anything that identifies Hermione as Caucasian - her only physical descriptor being related to her hair. Article for further reading: telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/…
    – user18397
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 4:02

No. You do not even have to describe the face of your protagonist (the main hero of the story). I've read several published authors that don't do it, but I am away on business and have no access to my shelves to find examples. As a general rule when I write, I seldom describe my characters' physical appearance in any detail. In one case, the only way I described a character that performed significant action was this:

"Find the least pretty boy in the bar, that's him."
"Is he scarred? Beat up?"
Alice entered the bar, and scanned the patrons. Oh, that must be him.

The only time I give physical description is if it is has an effect on other character's reactions and treatment of the character. I see no reason to do otherwise. Even then, if I am going to describe them, I wait until some other character DOES have a reaction to their appearance, and sometimes that is enough to convey the appearance.

Jane said, "He's no Prince Charming, but he's pretty funny."
"Well I'm no Cinderella," Alice said, "So tell him that and set me up if he still wants to go."

  • After reading through some favorite books to tackle this idea again, I recommend this answer as the answer. And FWIW, I see a sharp divide between what is published and what individuals ask for when they give me critique. I can't explain it!
    – SFWriter
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 16:14
  • @DPT Maybe because they know the author and feel at liberty to demand clarification. Try asking them what THEY think the character looks like, but don't use it, just say you think they already got the right idea. Their answer will tell you how you are doing at characterization, they will tell you what they like for heroes, and perhaps don't like for the villains. The writing problem to me is an early stall of something for the reader to memorize, mostly for no reason. IMO, only describe what the story requires (in this case; for external setting or wonderments, more can be done for the mood).
    – Amadeus
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 19:46

Further to DPT's excellent answer, it's worth keeping in mind that a reader will expect your writing to be purposeful. In other words, if you've provided a physical description of a character, then the reader will assume this description is somehow pertinent. If there's a lot of irrelevant detail, at best this bogs down your narrative, and at worst distracts and annoys the reader.

For example, describing a character's close-set eyes, or full lips, or pinched nose, or cauliflower ears, or doe-like brown eyes, in each case provides an early hint about the character's personality.

Unusual features can also be an opportunity to add additional depth to the character. In William Kennedy's Ironweed, the main character Francis Phelan has a piece missing from the tip of his nose. This not only adds to the reader's image of Phelan as an unattractive alcoholic vagrant - in sharp contrast to the soft, warm-hearted man tormented by inner demons - but gives Kennedy the opportunity to describe how the disfigurement occurred, adding further depth to the character as well as an interesting narrative side excursion.

An unusual feature can also be used as a defining characteristic. In The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, the main character Quoyle is described on just the second page as:

A great damp loaf of a body. At six he weighed eighty pounds. At sixteen he was buried under a casement of flesh. Head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair ruched back. Features as bunched as kissed fingertips. Eyes the colour of plastic. The monstrous chin, a freakish shelf jutting from the lower face.

It's a bizarre image, but perfectly sets the scene for Quoyle's transformative journey. Other novels that come to mind where a character's unusual physical appearance is important to the story include John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces (the central character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is a huge, obese slob); The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (unreliable narrator Oskar Matzerath is an adult who chose to stop growing at age three); and of course Harry Potter (with his famous scar).

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