So, I was filling out my little character chart thing and got to “Prominent/Distinguishing Features.” What are those? What could they be? I wanted my character to be interesting, so did some research. Then I thought, why not create a little guide for other authors? So, here you go. My “Writer’s Guide to Distinguishing Marks on Characters!” Have fun creating different, interesting characters with cool (or perhaps, not cool) marks.
This is by no means a complete list, but it’s something. All information came from webmd.com.
Freckles and Such
These are growths on the skin, usually brown or black, that can appear anywhere. They come alone as well as in groups. Most moles appear in early childhood or during the first 30 years of a person’s life. Most adults have anywhere from 10-40.
Moles can change as years pass, becoming raised, changing colors, developing hairs, or even disappearing. They may darken after sun exposure or during pregnancy.
Your character can have a mole that isn’t disgusting looking; moles do not have to detract from physical appearance.
Small brown spots usually found on the face and arms. More common during the summer and on lighter-skinned people (and people with red hair). Think about the amount of freckles your character has, because these range from across the nose to everywhere on the face.
There is not yet a known cause, but birthmarks are colored skin spots that are present at birth or develop shortly after birth. They can be brown, tan, black, pale blue, pink, white, red, or purple. Some birthmarks are colorations of the surface of the skin; others are raised above the surface of the skin or extend into the tissues under the skin.
Red birthmarks: Colored markings that develop before or shortly after birth. They have to do with blood vessels somehow.
Pigmented birthmarks: Skin markings present at birth. Like…
Mongolian spots: Bluish and similar to bruises in appearance. Often on the butt or lower back but also on trunk and arms. More common in darker skinned people.
Café-au-lait spots: Light tan or light brown spots, usually ovular in shape. (I have one of these).
A common type of vascular (having to do with blood vessels) tumor which occurs (usually) early in life and resembles a birthmark. Usually harmless and painless. Port-wine stains are the only type that are permanent (again, usually), unless they were treated at some point. Port-wine stains are flat purple or red birthmarks often on the face.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has a port wine stain on his forehead, if you want to find a reference picture.
A spot on the skin that is darker than the surrounding skin, caused by exposure to sun. Kinda like a birthmark, except it happens later in life. Usually on the face or hands. (I have a spot like this on my leg, too. Atleast I think it’s this. It looks like I just dropped a drop of tanning cream on my leg or something. Idk.)
There are many types of scarring. Scars are caused by wounds to the body like cuts and burns. These can be any shape and occur anywhere. Scars do fade over time and become less noticeable.
Keloid scars: Result of an overly aggressive healing process. They may hamper movement, and are more common among darker skinned people.
Contracture scars: Burn scars. They tighten skin, which can impair movement.
Hypertrophic scars: Raised, red scars.
Acne scars: Result of, obviously, acne. These can be anything from deep pits to scars angular or wavelike in appearance.
Redness of the skin (some times pimples also); this is a skin disease.
Skin can also become red due to allergies- rashes- so perhaps think about your character’s allergies.
All aged people have them, really. Folds in the skin due to the thinning of skin, loss of elasticity, inability to retain moisture, less efficient oil glands, and slower healing rates.
Wrinkles are also caused my smoking, so if your character is a long time smoker they may have more wrinkles.
Small flaps of tissue that hang off the skin. They aren’t dangerous. They are found most commonly on women, especially with weight gain, or in elderly people.
Not a distinguishing mark, per say, but I might as well add it. It’s harmless but mildly embarrassing and sometimes itchy, so if your character has dandruff their scalp may itch. Dandruff has nothing to do with hair and everything to do with your scalp- it’s white flakes of dry skin. Also, it can apparently get worse with stress and cold, dry winters.
Other Distinguishing Marks
It’s really a series of puncture woulds that carry dye. The dye is in the scar tissue (hence, permanent, even as we loose layer after layer of skin). Also, tattoos may be swollen with some crusting on the surface at first. It may ooze small amounts of blood for 24 hours, and also may ooze clear, yellow, or blood-tinged fluid for several days. Ew.
You can pierce many parts of your body. Obviously, the most common is the earlobe. Cartilage piercings take longer to heal than earlobe piercings. Other popular sites are the mouth and tongue, the nose, eyebrows, navel, and genital area. Piercing sites can also swell or ooze some fluid at first. Think about your character’s allergies as well- many people are allergic to different types of metal.
Stuff to think about
Does your character squint? Maybe their nose is forever crooked after breaking their nose one too many times? There are a lot of diseases that can leave marks as well! Characters are like blank sheets, you get to mark them up. (That sounds kinda mean, but… you’re the author! It’s your job!)
Something to note regarding skin tags; while they can form anywhere, they tend to form in areas of movement and high friction like the armpits, inner thighs, and neck… kind of like pilling on fabric.
Anonymous asked: what advise would you give to an aspiring writer?
Write anything you want for an hour. Go and do it, now. Just get a book or some paper and write whatever comes to mind. It can be little sentences or a poem or whatever. Then, leave it. Go and watch some of your favourite TV show or read a book or go for a walk. When you come back, reread what you wrote and pick out any sentences that you like. You might have only found one sentence you like, but this is your writing style. Try and write a few more sentences based on the one you have in front of you.
Once you’ve done this, start to look at some plot references. Here’s a great one to help you advance your characters.
Now that you have a plot, you need some characters. Think of interesting characters with flaws. Don’t make them perfect. Make them realistic to what they would be like. It often helps me to answer the following questions about a character I am creating:
a) What is their favourite food? How and when did they first try this food, and how often do they eat it?
b) What type of music do they like? How did they get into this music style?
c) Does your character have any scars? If so, how did they obtain them?
d) To whom is your character closest to?
e) Does your character like to read? Or do they prefer to watch things on TV? If so, what do they like to read/watch?
f) What is your character’s happiest memory?
g) What is your character’s saddest memory?
h) What do you know about your character that they have not yet found out themselves?
i) Describe your character using an animal. Now describe them using three words.
j) Name three things your character regrets in their life.
k) Name one “turning point” in your character’s life.
l) Is your character an introvert or an extrovert?
m) What is your character’s full name, preferred nickname, preferred pronouns, sexuality and gender identity?
n) At what point in your character’s life did they decide to take the path they are currently following, e.g. University, on the run, living away from home?
o) What is your character most passionate about?
p) What is your character’s relationship with their mother? Father?
q) Does your character have any siblings? Do they get on well with each other?
r) Who is/was your character’s best friend, or did they not ever have one?
s) Where does your character live? How rich or poor are they?
t) What is your character’s favourite song?
u) Does your character sing in the shower?
v) Is your character an early bird or a night owl?
w) Would your character sacrifice the person closest to them if it meant gaining the thing they wanted the most in life?
x) What personality type is your character? Try taking the Myers-Briggs personality test, answering the questions in the same way that your character would answer. (You can take the test here.)
y) Can your character sleep without any light on?
z) What is your character’s worst fear?
Although you may not mention all, or any, of these in your story, they can be helpful in getting to know your character as something a lot deeper than what you put into your novel.
Another thing you can do is take various personality tests for your character. This gives you an idea about the type of person that their flaws and faults make them to be. It’s also good to give them a hamartia- a fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a protagonist- that poses problems throughout the story. For example, Romeo’s fault in Romeo and Juliet was that he was fickle, and couldn’t decide on his own mind. Finally, in creating your character, it’s always fun to create them on websites where you can make your own character. Either do this, or draw them by hand to give you an idea of what they are like. See if you can figure out their clothes style.
Finally, work out who your writing inspiration is. Read some of their work and try to replicate their style of writing- but do not copy someone else’s characters, plot, storyline or take sentences from their work itself. Originality is key.