Sunday, January 24, 2010
I’d like to see more small physical imperfections on characters.
Physical deformities are interesting provided they aren’t either 1. birthmarks shaped like crowns/swords/hawks, indicating the character’s noble blood, or 2. “everyone around her says it’s ugly but we know better” features. Something like a skunk-streak in the heroine’s hair, for instance. That kind of thing tends to be coolness hiding behind a fig leaf of supposed imperfection. I’d like to see imperfection that’s treated accordingly.
One of my favorite facial blemishes is the port-wine stain, which is easy to fall back on since it affects a relatively large number of people. That, and it’s not a horribly disfiguring thing like a character missing a nose, so you could still have readers seeing such a character as attractive but not by any means perfect.
I’m kind of biased, though, since I have three small black birthmarks on my nose that, believe it or not, I never noticed until I went back to the Middle East for a holiday. A family member pointed them out and after that I kept seeing them when I looked in a mirror. I think if you connected the dots, you’d get an isoceles triangle.
Birthmarks can be bluish or brown as well, and in a speculative fiction story they could conceivably be any color and could therefore have interesting names. For instance, yellow birthmarks could be called sunspots. There’s also a real-life birthmark called a “stork bite” or “angel’s kiss”. Maybe dark-skinned characters have reverse freckles – a scattering of lighter spots on their skin.
And odd-looking blemishes on the eyelids would be fun to play with. Other characters might not be certain if they’ve actually seen those – not until the blemished character is asleep, anyway.
Baldness or a receding hairline are options, as are crooked teeth. Even a receding chin. Or what about a character having suffered nerve damage to one side of her face? It won’t be too evident until she smiles or laughs; at that point, others notice that only one corner of her mouth turns up.
That was fun to imagine.