Writing assignment – how to describe hair

If you ask the average person how to describe hair, they might mention color and length.

But a writer has to be able to do so much more, because how you describe hair sets the tone for how people see a character.  This applies equally to fiction, biography an any other book (or blog post or article) that involves storytelling.

 

TIP:  Pick up our free cheat sheet to help describe your characters.

 

When you read that a character has long hair, you right away assume that this is a free spirit, perhaps laid back, somebody who is not in authority.  When you hear a man has short hair, you assume that the person is ambitious, someone in authority or a self-disciplined person.

When you read that a lady has long, blonde hair, you assume the lay is fun-loving, probably popular and perhaps not much of a thinker.  “Blondes have more fun” and “dumb blonde jokes” might seem like  outdated stereotypes, but people still make assumptions in line with those old clichés.

Hair is more than color and length

Pop quiz:  What does the hair in this photo tell you about this unfortunate man?

Answer: It tells you that I had spent way too much time ripping apart lathe and plaster walls.  But demolition is fun, so it wasn’t all that bad.

But there is more to hair than color and length.  Consider texture.  Hair could be rough or smooth or shiny.  Or slicked back with gel. It could be frizzy or curly or straight.

What about smell? Yes, smell.  Most often smell is mentioned in steamy romance novels…

He grew dizzy from the soft fragrance of her hair, like lavender carried on a fresh morning breeze,  enveloping his face, stunning his senses…

OK, so now you know why I leave the steamy romance novels to other ghostwriters on our team, but you get the idea. The smell of a person’s hair sets the tone for what the person is like, and even where that person has been.  The arsonist can change his clothes, but isn’t that a slight smell of gasoline I smell in his hair?  Or smoke?

So pay more than passing attention to a character’s hair when describing the person.  You don’t have to say that Jimmy is an auto mechanic, you just have to say…

Jimmy’s hair was slicked back, just as if he had combed oil into it.  Oil?  No, the smell was not that of oil, but of automotive grease.  There is a difference.  Maybe the scent was coming from his hair.  Or maybe it was coming from his clothes.  Or perhaps it was just a part of him, so basic an element that his very skin smelled of it.

Class assignment:  Jenny is a 35 year old, recently divorced, a nature-lover and a bit of a hermit.  How would you introduce her to your readers, using her hair to do so?  Please feel free to write in the comments below.

 

GD Star Rating
loading...
GD Star Rating
loading...
Writing assignment - how to describe hair, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

3 thoughts on “Writing assignment – how to describe hair

  1. This is a great way to think about describing hair! I did that in my in my recently published novel, although not with as much detail as you share here. I described my main character’s sister’s hair as a blonde ponytail swaying back and forth as she ran to her new car. You’ve given me a lot to think about on my upcoming novel when I go through the final edit! :)

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  2. Nice post (but very creepy picture). I admit I always go first to describing a character’s hair, because it seems easy. But most of the times I wind up using some cliche. It’s time to do a little more digging into ways to make it better, thanks for pointing it out!

    Sincerely,

    Iulian

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
    GD Star Rating
    loading...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>