How to Write Amazing Hair Descriptions
Trying to describe a character can be one of the biggest challenges of writing. Let’s say you have a character who is loud and brash. You may know that, but saying, “Jackson was a loud, brash man,” doesn’t make for an engaging story.
So how do you talk about who a character is without talking about who a character is? One of the best ways to do that is through hair descriptions. It may seem strange, but describing a character through their hair can be powerful.
Maybe there’s a proud landlord who has some super hair pieces hiding in his closet. Maybe there’s a little girl whose dirty, matted hair tells you everything you need to know about her life.
No matter who the character is, describing their hair in the right way can add amazing depth to your story. Read on to learn about more great ways to describe hair in your story.
Make It Describe the Character
The first and most important thing you want to do when talking about a character’s looks is make sure they aren’t just that – looks. Every aspect of a character should tell you something about them. If you show the reader what a character is like through what they look like, you won’t have to tell them later.
For instance, let’s say you’re writing about a warrior woman who worries about her father’s expectations and wishes she could be gentle as well as fierce. When this woman is in battle or around her father, she’ll have her hair pulled back into a tight braid. She’ll have discipline, and there won’t be a hair out of place.
But when she’s on her own, she’s likely to let her hair fall down loose. She might worry about anyone else seeing it down. But she’ll take good care of it and keep it clean and strong.
You see, in a few sentences, we’ve given the reader a sense of this character’s deepest fears and desires without talking about them. Showing what the character is like in this way, rather than telling the reader makes the reader connect with the character and will help your story flow. Hair descriptions can be an important part of this.
Use All Five Senses
When describing hair, the instinct of a lot of writers is to only describe the way it looks. It makes sense. Unless it is your own hair, it’s likely that you’ll only ever look at hair, rather than experiencing it with all five senses.
For a character, you want to make sure the reader had as much sensory detail as possible. (A note here: make sure you work these details into the story. You don’t want to pile a bunch of descriptions on a reader all at once.)
When you’re describing hair, make sure to use all five senses. Let’s go back to our warrior woman example. We know that when she’s around people, her hair will have tight braids, perhaps so tight it’s pulling at her scalp. When she’s alone, it will look soft and shiny.
Her hair will also probably feel soft, like silk or water running over your hands. When she’s in battle, her hair may smell like sweat, blood, or even smoke. When she moves, her braid may smack against her armor, or it may whisper when she takes it out of the braid.
Using all your senses to describe how a character’s hair looks will give the reader a richer experience of that character. Again, be sure to work these details into the story naturally. But you’ll find yourself with a much more captivating story for including those descriptions.
Describe How It Moves
One of the most common ways to describe hair is by how it moves. And it’s no surprise. Showing how a character’s hair moves can help inform a lot about them.
Once again, let’s look at our warrior woman. Her braid may jut out from the base of her neck stiffly. When she’s fighting, it may whip around behind her. The end of it could flick like a lion’s tail when she’s stalking towards an enemy.
When she has her hair loose, though, this character’s hair may flow down her back. It may cascade over her shoulders and cover her face. It could hang in dripping strands when it’s wet.
The way a character’s hair moves can be an extension of the way they themselves move, and that can inform a lot about them. Again, show who your character is through how they carry themselves. That will carry over to the way their hair moves, and your reader will have a better picture of who your character is.
Don’t Forget the Body Hair
When you’re describing a character’s hair, it can be easy to forget their body hair. Granted, this is less likely to come up in normal descriptions than head hair is. But it can be a powerful tool to set a scene when it does.
For example, our warrior woman might come out of a fiery battle to find her eyebrows singed. Her eyebrows could even be thick and straight. When they’re furrowed or knit, those close to her might know that it’s time for them to get out of her way.
Or if she sees a friend fall in battle, all the hair on her arms might stand up. She might feel the hairs on the back of her neck prickle if someone’s watching her while she has her hair loose. Or she could have to wash the blood and sweat out of her leg and armpit hair after a fight.
Body hair descriptions will be sparingly used. But in the right places, they can add yet another dimension to your reader’s experience. You want to use every tool at your disposal to immerse the reader in the story, and body hair descriptions can be one of those tools.
Writing Powerful Hair Descriptions
For many people, their hair is a huge part of their outward identity. Think about how good you feel about yourself when you get a great new haircut. That same sense of identity tied to hair carries over to your characters, as well.
Using hair descriptions to talk about a character can be a powerful way to immerse the reader in who this person is. Follow the tips above, and you’ll have an amazing character ready to guide your reader through the world you’ve created.
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