RO Physical Introduction

Hey Y’all,

I’ve been working on my project every now and then, but school and work has made progress slow.

But I have hit a bit of a roadblock. So, as I mentioned on the interest thread, my game has a decent emphasis on romance, and as such I like to picture exactly what the ROs look like. The roadblock is how to describe their physical looks. I have a pretty detailed description I can use as reference, and I’ve decided that I want most of the physical description written out during their first introduction. I suppose I’d like some suggestions in general.

My main concern is if I use the entire description during the first meeting, the reader is going to be hit by a huge block of text. I’m alright with cutting some of the finer details of their physical description, but I struggle to decide on what can be cut and what can’t. I made them quite specific so it’s tough thinking of what’s characterization and what’s fluff. The other thing is I don’t mind spacing the description out over an entire scene, but then I’m struggling to naturally incorporate it so it doesn’t feel too forced. Sorry if this is a bit ranty and filled with spelling errors. It’s late, I’m typing this out on my phone, and I’m a bit miffed this is giving me this much trouble.

So, any tips or examples of your favorite physical descriptions of an RO in a game would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again y’all.

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Just put the character’s description inside the stat page, inside a menu; many people do It that way.

And then have a short description when introducing the character.

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I was just thinking about this recently. I found it important to describe how people are dressed and what they look like but it was getting all clumpy and longwinded.

I ended up deciding on four things:

  • Every single character is introduced with something more than just physical description: for my robot faction, a pseudo stats readout. For my medieval fashion, a line of poetry. Et cetera. Getting across the vibe is way more important than the specifics.
  • The clumpy descriptions are still there for people that like fashion/worldbuilding.
  • Throughout, I’ll keep calling back to interesting features of the characters naturally in the text: the way they clank and whirr as they move, a hand to their scabbard when they’re nervous, etc. Tie it into the character’s overall physicality.
  • Because I’m extra, every character also gets an illustration. Just to be sure. I don’t recommend this for most writers lol.
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A piece of advice is to try to let something into the reader’s imagination. The Cog advertisement phrase Fueled by the vast power of your imagination is real less is more.

Many writers are tempted to describe everything with giant walls of text. But something as big as romances is not a good idea. Players must be able to portray something they find attractive in the character; with a detailed description, they probably don’t like what you consider physically alluring.

More useful descriptions say how they smile feels. The tact of their skin, how their voice remembers you snow melting, how their skin glitters with sweat etc.

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I absolutely agree with @poison_mara on this. It’s not really important what the RO looks like, it’s how they make the reader feel. The vibe they give off, so to speak. (That said, I’m notoriously bad at picturing practically anyone, so that definitely plays into my opinion here!)

This is also why I’m much more invested in things like the sound of the RO’s voice, their manner of speaking (if the MC is not meant to be already acquainted with them, a RO’s first words to or actions towards the MC can reveal a lot about their character and nature), the look in their eyes, the way they carry themself, etc. Personally, though, I would avoid signaling immediate physical attraction because that, to me, should always be a choice the player makes.

I also find character descriptions on the stat page extremely useful.

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I agree 200% with Mara

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The amount of physical description I want as a reader is roughly the same amount of detail you’d give me if you were trying to point them out in a crowd of people. Tall black lady, long braids, glasses, bright clothing. Short white girl, shoulder length black hair, leather jacket, lots of piercings. Other than that, just let me imagine things. It’ll work way better than you trying to describe everything about somebody, because trying to get really detailed with the physical descriptions never works. Nobody’s going to picture the exact person you’re picturing, so don’t try to make them.

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Probably not what you want to hear, but yeah, don’t do this. Don’t greet players with a wall of text. @poison_mara was to the point, leave some leeway for the player’s imagination to fill in the blank.

Just describe the most outstanding features. What makes them stand out in a crowd?

Harry Potter is skinny, has messy black hair and green eyes. He wears round glasses and a scar on his forehead in the shape of lightning.

That’s it. We don’t need to know the exact shade of his skin, how tall he is or his bone structure. Unless it’s plot relevant or it makes them stand out.

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When I meet a character, I start to picture them a certain way. If I’m told something about their appearance after the first meeting, it may not end up changing the picture in my head. So anything that you really want the readers to think (especially if it’s plot related) should be given as soon as possible. After that, you need to be ok with readers picturing the characters how they’ll picture them.
If you can only say three things at a time, go for skin eye and hair

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As for myself, I prefer to know distinctive features to knowing about hair colour, eye colour, and such, if I have to choose. I may forget that a character has brown hair, but I’ll remember his large, straight nose. I may forget that a character has blue eyes, but I’ll remember her scarred cheek. And so on.

Edit: I know the struggle, though; I love vivid descriptions, both writing them and reading them. If I, for some reason, feel the need to describe several aspects of a character’s physical appearance, I try to sprinkle them here and there instead of writing a text block, trying to make it flow naturally and not seem forced.

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I mostly focus on 4 things: hair (sometimes I included hairstyle), eyes, voice, and aura. Enough to set a character apart from the others and not too many to handle.

Let be honest, no one want to read a Great Wall of Text (unless it’s interesting), and many people in this forum don’t have English as their mother tongue (+ 1 reason to skip a text wall), but if you write too simple (like, in one sentence) then it leaves no impression. So don’t throw everything on player’s face, cut the appearance in parts and let the player read them slowly as the story goes on, in the end they will get the RO’s appearance in detail but don’t have to go continuously through a Great Wall of Text.

For example: A appear by saying something or interrupting a conversation - start describing how their voice sound (because that’s what you know first about them), when they enter PC’s eyesight you can say “a blond man with blue eyes” or just “a man/woman/person”, after they leave you can tell how they make the PC feels like. In future encounters and specific moments, you can start to describe other things in detail.
But every character has something special and things that separate them from others. So the introduction between each character will be different: a handsome man will make a strong first impression with his appearance, a frightening king has a strong aura that the only thing you remember is how scary he is, an assassin with a haunting voice that you can recognize everywhere,… So you don’t have to follow any sequence or formula, just choose the outstanding detail.

One of my favorite authors introduced her main character by only describing his aura in the first chapter, I must say it’s kinda unforgettable.
(Noted that this is a translation)

He begins the evening by eating.

He smiles again, as he circles around the long table, and his smile still lingers like white chiffon, no, it must have been a streak of red wine, faint and translucent.

He wears a napkin around his neck. Looking at the way the small silk embroidered with flowers meticulously caresses his neck will make others crave. People will go crazy. Everyone will have to talk about it while suppressing such greedy desires, to be rich, to be leisurely, to escape the mundane world, and to be courteous like that. Vulgar men will be riled up with envy, gossipy women will gossip about him again with ferocious admiration for his beauty and wealth. The ladies will tremble behind the fan or huddle behind each other at the sight of him, and the sons of the dukes will have to send many letters to befriend him.

P/s: If writing a wall of text is inevitable, at least make them interesting. Don’t just describe things, include some emotions (kinda hard for second-person perspective if the player has different emotions than what you write), some fun facts, sarcasm… or whatever. Just make sure you want to read that text wall after, because if even the author doesn’t want to read their wall of text then how can the player want to?

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Regarding character appearances, I believe three things should be the priority when writing a story:

I. Establish the characters appearances as early as possible. Preferably in the first interaction with them. Shattering the mental image they create by describing their appearance meticulously later in the story will frustrate readers.

II. Focus on key details. A ‘blonde woman with a slim figure’ is unremarkable. Everyone knows someone like that. A ‘man with a deep scar on his left eye’ is unusual. After you establish those key details, you can elaborate on the finer points of their appearance later on.

III. Mix description with dialogue. A bullet point list is boring. However, when the ‘scarred man hardens his gaze at you, piercing brown eyes saying a thousand words without a single sound; delicate silk gives way to his soft pale hands. An aristocrat, no doubt’ looks at you, that gets your attention. Naturally, don’t write a boring description like I did. It’s just to illustrate a point.

That’s what I think will improve your story.

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This may not be universal, but I strongly dislike the use of descriptors like “beautiful,” “pretty,” “cute,” etc. for female characters. If you say a character’s cheekbones are sharp enough to cut glass, the player gets to decide if that’s attractive to them or not.

On a more personal note, I’ve been made to feel my entire life as if attractiveness was the most valuable thing I had to offer as a girl/woman, which really, really sucks. Seeing every female RO introduced as “beautiful” while male ROs get to be “powerful,” “cunning,” etc. leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. By just listing a couple of the character’s defining traits bereft of value judgements, you avoid that problem unless you’re specifically focusing on primary or secondary sexual characteristics (breast size, “full lips,” buttocks, etc.)

In terms of what does work for me, I love descriptors of things like freckles, moles, a crooked nose, a wild hairstyle. Anything that differentiates a character from the generically beautiful female ROs that pop up in so many titles can make them feel more memorable, more human.

Edit: Also, a really great thing to do when describing a character of either gender is to include elements of their appearance they chose for themselves. Hair style/color, clothing, makeup, tattoos, piercings, jewelry. People tend to present themselves in particular ways because it expresses how they want to be perceived, it’s how they’re most comfortable, it’s how they feel they’re expected to appear, or a combination of some or all of those things. By including personal expression, you’re describing a character’s appearance, their personality, and you’re differentiating them all at once.

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Truth be told that also apply to men, not just females. It just depends on who is writing the game. Ex: ‘You find him breathtaking and you let your gaze roams toward his sister who is frowning waiting to be introduced (You are attracted to women)’ :sweat_smile:

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Lol, when you start dictating the player’s feelings like that, it makes you start to think like there’s some supernatural force attracting you to that person (Which could make sense for some magical worlds)

You could deliver character description in a bundles.

Like starting with something obvious, first things that is grabbing attention, hair length and color, height, facial hair, general physic (big, slim etc) something usuall and simple

Second the traits, that usual or defying for the character, for example crooked smile, hunched shoulders, big facial scar, limping when walking, they could be introduced in the same scene

And other small details will be revealed in a specific scene, like color of the eyes you would notice and remember when paying specific attention to them, the same goes for freckles, or you could know about constantly sweating hands if MC actually grab a hand of this character
You would see some small scars(like bullet, cigarettes, or some selfharming scars) only if this character will let you see them.

Revealing them in bundles also will help to create feelings of getting closer to character

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My general rule of thumb is to give yourself three things, whether you’re introducing a character or a setting or an object or whatever. That puts clear limits in place so that you can’t sit and fret too much over it. It’s not going to be everything and that’s okay. You reveal bits and pieces as you go. Especially useful is to give the player an excuse to look at them again later. That can be because they’re in some kind of event wear (Formal wear, swim wear, etc) or because they’re seeing them in a new light (First tie seeing them at whatever their job is, or drunk, etc). Then you have a baseline established, and you can give yourself a new batch of 3 details to play with without it seeming unnatural.

As for what to focus on, I use two things: what’s a particularly remarkable feature (A tattoo, a piercing, eye color, etc) that you would notice up close and personal? And what are things you would notice from far away that would signify them (Hair color, build, skin tone, etc.)

And of course this is all guideline, not stricture. I break these all the time in my writing, but they’re nice baselines I like to keep in my back pocket.

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I’ll be replying to this comment as this is the one most people are referencing. This is really helpful and I appreciate the advice! I’m not sure I can let go of all physical description, but I’ll pare down on it a bunch, mainly bringing out characteristics I think are more “unique” to that particular character. Essentially going from a super-detailed document I’ve got in my mind, to 1-3 defining physical characteristics at most. And while this wasn’t the direction I was planning on going in, reducing the description in turn makes it easier to naturally fit the few defining details I want.

While I can’t completely let of go of the physical descriptions, this advice has helped me cut down on it MAJORLY. So thank you so much everyone! I’ll still read through other comments to take other opinions for consideration, but between a good chunk of people referencing Mara and how it’ll ultimately fit more seamlessly, I think I’ll include only a few important details choosing to focus on personality and mannerisms.

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I may consider adding a more-detailed description in a stats menu for those who wish to view it. While keeping the physical description in the story limited to a couple defining features.

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I wish more authors would develop the skill of describing a character so that it’s clear they’re what would generally be considered attractive, without making the decision for me that my character is attracted.

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