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.Â This applies equally to fiction, biography an any other book (or blog post or article) that involves storytelling.
TIP:Â 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.Â 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popular and perhaps not much of a thinker.Â â€śBlondes have more funâ€ť and â€śdumb blonde jokesâ€ť might seem likeÂ outdated stereotypes, but people still make assumptions in line with those old clichĂ©s.
Hair is more than color and length
Answer: It tells you that I had spent way too much time ripping apart lathe and plaster walls.Â But demolition is fun, so it wasn’t all that bad.
But there is more to hair than color and length.Â Consider texture.Â Hair could be rough or smooth or shiny.Â Or slicked back with gel. It could be frizzy or curly or straight.
What about smell? Yes, smell.Â Most often smell is mentioned in steamy romance novelsâ€¦
He grew dizzy from the soft fragrance of her hair, like lavender carried on a fresh morning breeze, Â enveloping his face, stunning his sensesâ€¦
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 personâ€™s hair sets the tone for what the person is like, and even where that person has been.Â The arsonist can change his clothes, but isnâ€™t that a slight smell of gasoline I smell in his hair?Â Or smoke?
So pay more than passing attention to a characterâ€™s hair when describing the person.Â You donâ€™t have to say that Jimmy is an auto mechanic, you just have to sayâ€¦
Jimmyâ€™s hair was slicked back, just as if he had combed oil into it.Â Oil?Â No, the smell was not that of oil, but of automotive grease.Â There is a difference.Â Maybe the scent was coming from his hair.Â Or maybe it was coming from his clothes.Â Or perhaps it was just a part of him, so basic an element that his very skin smelled of it.
Class assignment:Â Jenny is a 35 year old, recently divorced, a nature-lover and a bit of a hermit.Â How would you introduce her to your readers, using her hair to do so?Â Please feel free to write in the comments below.
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