You may be familiar with the Marilyn Monroe–Albert Einstein illusion that operates on the peculiarities of our vision system. Up close, where we perceive detail, the image looks like the great thinker Albert Einstein, but back away a few feet and our eyes will naturally adjust to a less-detailed rendering, allowing the features to resemble the stunning actress Marilyn Monroe. I think both perspectives as well as the distance at which our eyes struggle to decide who we’re seeing is interesting to a writer working to craft character.
Of course, how to describe characters when introducing them to the reader poses one challenge for writers. As emerging writers, at some point we all likely included some awkwardness in that initial description, perhaps including the unfortunate moment when the protagonist surveys herself/himself/itself in a hand mirror/shop window/pond and thoughtfully regards her/his/its own long blonde curls/spiky brown hair/man-killing tentacles. An author like the Franklin W. Dixon ghost troupe just puts it out there, letting us know by page 2 of The Secret Agent on Flight 101 that Joe Hardy is “blond and seventeen,” “enjoys joking,” and is “more impulsive” than his “dark-haird, eighteen-year-old brother.” Oh yeah, both ace teen detectives are “trim all-around athletes,” too. Continue reading