The ins and outs of our characters

Have you seen this fascinating clip by Dove (see below)? They had a forensic artist sketch women using the woman’s own description and then again using the description of someone who had just met them. All the women saw themselves much more critically than the strangers did. Probably not surprising.

But it made me realise that when I write my characters I have to remember to give them their inner-self and outer-self. That is, my heroine will see the small mole on her cheek or the slight creases near her eyes – but for her they will overwhelm her face. A stranger will see the hint of a laugh around her mouth, the pink on her cheeks and the curl in her hair. Both these views will affect how the characters act and think.

Watch this video. How do you perceive yourself? I’m sure that I would have the same reaction as these ladies…

13 comments on “The ins and outs of our characters

  1. I’ve seen this clip before. Wonder what would happen with men?

    • That’s a good question, John. I think older studies found that men go the other way – tend to see themselves as slimmer, fitter etc than reality. But these days, I think social media has caught up with boys as well, and they no longer see themselves as fit and toned as those in cyberspace and are more critical of themselves then older generations. I hope I’m wrong!

  2. That was interesting. Good reminder, to show a character through their judgmental eyes.

    • I have to keep reminding myself of that, Jacqui, which is why I blogged about it. Hopefully writing it down will help it stick in my head.

  3. Yeah, we’re always way more critical on ourselves. (Not in a place where I can watch the video, so I’ll go by your description of it.)

  4. What a shame you can’t see it, Liz. Maybe if you Google you’ll find one in your area (it’s an American campaign so I am sure there must be versions that can be seen all around the world).

  5. AJ, thank you so much for sharing this clip. I found it incredibly moving. The only difference between the women in the video and me is that I’d be even harsher about myself than they were.
    I can see that there are significant implications for how you’d write a character, but am so caught up in the impact of the video on my self-perception that any other use pales in comparison.
    Thanks again.

    • Karen, I have to confess, when I first saw this that was my immediate reaction as well. I watched it a number of times before I realised the implication for my characters.

  6. It’s a shame that we (women) focus on our flaws instead of the whole person. I blame marketing – which makes money on making women insecure about our looks. According to the marketing machine, we are chock full of “problem areas” that need fixing…and oh look, here is a product to do just that! Even Dove has been guilty of this.

    I think others see us differently partly because they are seeing our personality shine through our faces…when we look in the mirror, we are mostly static. We are not seeing the whole person that others see.

    Have you ever found yourself drawn (or not) to a person’s appearance, and then you get to know them and your whole perception of their attractiveness changes (for better or worse)? That happens to me a lot. It’s hard for me to judge someone’s looks until I get to know them better because I know my perception will change by then.

    Thanks for making me think again about these things, AJ.


    • Deb, I completely agree. First impressions are based on looks but after that personality shines through and adjusts our initial impression.

      Really, beauty comes from the inside. People are kinda like a box of chocolates. You might be drawn to the chocolate in the pretty shiny wrapper, but discover the inside isn’t to your taste. But then the plain, unwrapped chocolate turns out to be your favourite. (Bad example, I know, there is no such thing as chocolate I won’t eat, but you get the idea).

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