Why I Never Describe What My Protagonist Looks Like

Pin It

Author, L Davis Munro, on Her Book, Emmy Nation, Undercover Suffragette

Today we are pleased to present an article written by L Davis Munro, who is currently on a virtual book tour with iRead Book Tours.  Do check out the author’s page there to see the full schedule of stops along the way.  You will read reviews, interviews, and more articles from the author.

The story takes place in the early 1900’s.  Emmy takes a job with Scotland Yard, but her assignment leads her to question her own choices.  You won’t want to miss the story.

Why I never describe what my protagonist looks like

by L Davis Munro, Author of Emmy Nation, Undercover Suffragette

After reading through my book in the editing process it dawned on me that I had neglected to describe much about my protagonists physical attributes. Does she have brown hair, red hair, curly, straight? Are her eyes a certain colour? Is she tall? Does she have a round face or sharp features?

At first I panicked, I had left out one of the most important parts of writing; creating a strong impression of the protagonist so readers could really envision her. But once the panic subsided and I took a step back, I asked a few of my beta readers if they noticed, and no one had! They all felt they knew who Emmy Nation was and had pictured her in their own unique way. Sigh of relief. But I still had a nagging question in the back of my mind, why did I do this?

This was obviously an unconscious choice for me as a writer. I do describe the other characters in the book and I do discuss Emmy’s clothing and a few small details, so why did I leave out the rest?

After quite a bit of thought, I think I’ve stumbled on an answer. I had substituted myself in for Emmy when I was writing. When I first started developing the character of Emmy Nation, long before I started writing the book, I needed to keep her as close to myself as possible. After all she was my first character to develop beyond a few pages. I was timid to write someone who was far outside of myself and I was already setting her in a historical period far, far away from my own normalities. So, I took the safe route and I pictured her as myself and I don’t need to describe what I look like physically, I already know. Instead I focused on describing all the other things in Emmy’s life that were vastly different from my own experiences and I never got around to telling the reader what she looks like. And boy am I grateful I didn’t!

Once Emmy Nation became a fully fledged character she no longer resembled me in any way. When I envision Emmy she doesn’t look like me physically or emotionally, but I also don’t have a clear image of what she does look like on the outside. I am thankful that I can leave that part up to the reader and I can continue to focus on her actions and storyline. Besides, I have much more fun writing about clothes than I do about anything else!!

Since this question arose for my own book, I started looking at other books differently. Does having the author clearly describe all the physical pieces of a character make a difference for me as a reader? Or do I prefer to fill in the blanks for myself?

The Tour

Book Description for Emmy Nation:

Being an independent woman in 1913 London is certainly empowering, but Emmy Nation is tired of the inescapable damp seeping through her worn shoes and the hopeless grumblings of her stomach.

When she receives an offer from Scotland Yard to boost her typist income by spying on the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Emmy jumps at the chance. But as she grows closer to the WSPU women the lines begin to blur, and when a painful part of her past resurfaces Emmy begins to question her choices.

​How far are you willing to go to secure your equality?

Buy the book:   Amazon   Book Depository

See the video trailer:

Lia Davis Munro

Author’s Bio:

L. Davis Munro holds a master’s degree with a focus on women’s suffrage theatre and works in theatre and dance. She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with her husband and her dog.

Connect with the author:   Website    Twitter    Facebook




Merry Citarella, often writing as Merrci, writes on a wide range of topics. Recently relocated to the Oregon Coast in the northwest United States, she frequently writes travel features on the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She specializes in health and aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, food, lifestyle, and book reviews. For more information you can see her on The Writers’Door. You can read more articles here or at her websites Mystery Suspense Reviews .

Author: Merry Citarella

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment