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    • CommentTimeApr 26th 2010

    So I’m rewriting an old novel of mine, and I’ve just started the opening scene. The dilemma I face is this: I want to spend the first paragraph, not a very long one, describing my main character’s appearance, but I am afraid that will come across as infodumping. Is a tiny bit of infodumping acceptable, or is there a better way to clearly describe my character?


    Depends. Sometimes you can get away with it to an extent if it’s well-disguised, but it’s probably a better approach to work those details in gradually, in the most natural places you can find. Just dumping it would probably get a pass from most readers, but it’s still a cutting a corner.

    Do you use multiple PoVs, or just the one?

    • CommentTimeApr 26th 2010

    It probably will have multiple PoVs.


    If that’s the case, you can probably just defer the majority of the description until that character comes up in someone else’s PoV. That’s assuming you’re using 3rd person limited and one of your other PoVs does see this character, anyway.

    • CommentTimeApr 26th 2010

    Why would we need to know what your main character looks like? Save the info for later and work it in naturally, in bits.

    Appearances are not usually the best hook for a story. I’d say never, but I’m sure that someone can find a novel/short story to quote at me where it did work. But overall, your character’s description is not an interesting way to start the story. You need to dangle some sort of tantalizing bit in front of your readers – whether it’s a strange observation about life, an intriguing action, et cetera. Something to hook them in.


    Yeah, pretty much what the others are saying. Also, it’s pointless to have an infodump about a character’s description, when you can just specify appearances during action. To give a few examples:

    “His blue eyes flashed with schadenfreude.”

    “Von Gruppen entered the room, his blood-red cape swirling menacingly.”

    “Loading the gun with callused*, experienced hands, Hector smiled nervously to himself.”


    *As opposed to callous, which means “lacking in empathy or sensitivity”. “Calloused” was never a word.