Book by its cover (discussion on image)


Just came to mind.
A trope that doesn’t see much light of day the ugly exterior with a heart of gold. It’s an old effective but less used than you’d think.

Quasi Modo is the best example of this. Ugly on the outside and assumed as such by looks alone yet is quite different as a person.

The main thing I’m curious about is how often do you assume someone is good or bad based on their appearance.

I know we ‘want’ to say we don’t judge on looks but it’s true we do this despite ourselves. Though some of us are better at stopping this early.

In media and fiction villains have a certain look or image to send a message or others use these images to pull a reversal on us for shock value. Like the evil child or the kindly monster.

So do you as a writer use image to define your characters in traditional or unique ways or is it something that just happens?

It’s a big topic I think so feel free to explore all the angles I think it’s an interesting topic.


Personally I see this as a two way street. It might not always be a Quasi Modo sitututain.
It could also be someone who could seem beautiful on the outside, but on the inside they’re ugly.
When it comes to applying the “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” to a villain, I find that “who did it” or murder mystery stories do the don’t judge a book best.
Like I can assume the detective is there to catch a killer, because I see them a detective, but later on they turn out to be the killer and I’m just like “Oh Snap! Plot twist!”

I hope that makes sense. That’s just how I see it.


Sometimes the relation between horrible appearance and horrible personality is explored in a way in which the later is a result of the former.

Personally, I like how it’s done in Phantom of the Opera, in both the book and the film, this is not exactly a case of Heart of Gold inside an ugly outside, yes, he is a genius but he is also manipulative, selfish and indifferent to other’s feelingss. The Phantom does some heavy shit through all the story. However, the author manages to make him a sympathetic figure diving into his point of view.

The life of the Phantom was fill with suffering from the day he was born, as a result of his appearance, so the reason why he was such a monster was that the world never gave a chance to him, and therefore he acted like the world owed something to him. But even if a horrible life is able to explain a horrible behaviour, it doesn’t justify it. It reaches a point where he is so obsessed with the idea of his face being the cause of all his problem that he’s no longer able to see how monstrous are his actions.

As Chistine says “This haunted face holds not horror for me now, it’s in your soul that the true distortion lies”

And at the end, it’s made clear that despite his actions, the Phantom was not a complete monster, but circumstances that were both under and out of his control made him the way he was. Christine was able to recognize the humanity in him, and felt compassion for him. This is when the Phantom really realized how monstruos he was and how he could no longer act like the world owed something to him, he ended up puting the needs of someone else before his own wished, and the story concludes saying that he could have been a great person if the circumstances allowed him that.

Also, I love how compassion is the key that resolves the conflict. My favourite moment in the musical is when Christine, even after realizing that the Phantom was a manipulative person, and after she was able to stand up for herself and not be deceived by him anymore, was still able to saw a glimpse of humanity in him that allowed her to make the decision of forgive him. I’m not going to pretend that the Phantom of the Opera is a story about female empowerment, but it’s still quite remarkable how she goes through a character arc where she is no longer willing to let herself to be manipulated again and she is the one to save the day.

It’s at the end where she says:

“Pitiful creature of darkness,
What kind of life have you known?
God give me courage to show you,
You are not alone…”

and it’s just the most emotional moment for me in the entire musical.


Using perceived and projected images aswell as earnest expressions along with the plot make for amazingly deep characters and story. The phantom is a great example of ones image being turned inward changing the person beneath it.

Like I mention there are so many things that we can do using the image of a character.

But I’m a nerd with this kinda stuff so it might just be me lol