So, I was filling out my little character chart thing and got to “Prominent/Distinguishing Features.” What are those? What could they be? I wanted my character to be interesting, so did some research. Then I thought, why not create a little guide for other authors? So, here you go. My “Writer’s Guide to Distinguishing Marks on Characters!” Have fun creating different, interesting characters with cool (or perhaps, not cool) marks.
This is by no means a complete list, but it’s something. All information came from webmd.com.
Freckles and Such
These are growths on the skin, usually brown or black, that can appear anywhere. They come alone as well as in groups. Most moles appear in early childhood or during the first 30 years of a person’s life. Most adults have anywhere from 10-40.
Moles can change as years pass, becoming raised, changing colors, developing hairs, or even disappearing. They may darken after sun exposure or during pregnancy.
Your character can have a mole that isn’t disgusting looking; moles do not have to detract from physical appearance.
Small brown spots usually found on the face and arms. More common during the summer and on lighter-skinned people (and people with red hair). Think about the amount of freckles your character has, because these range from across the nose to everywhere on the face.
There is not yet a known cause, but birthmarks are colored skin spots that are present at birth or develop shortly after birth. They can be brown, tan, black, pale blue, pink, white, red, or purple. Some birthmarks are colorations of the surface of the skin; others are raised above the surface of the skin or extend into the tissues under the skin.
Red birthmarks: Colored markings that develop before or shortly after birth. They have to do with blood vessels somehow.
Pigmented birthmarks: Skin markings present at birth. Like…
Mongolian spots: Bluish and similar to bruises in appearance. Often on the butt or lower back but also on trunk and arms. More common in darker skinned people.
Café-au-lait spots: Light tan or light brown spots, usually ovular in shape. (I have one of these).
A common type of vascular (having to do with blood vessels) tumor which occurs (usually) early in life and resembles a birthmark. Usually harmless and painless. Port-wine stains are the only type that are permanent (again, usually), unless they were treated at some point. Port-wine stains are flat purple or red birthmarks often on the face.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has a port wine stain on his forehead, if you want to find a reference picture.
A spot on the skin that is darker than the surrounding skin, caused by exposure to sun. Kinda like a birthmark, except it happens later in life. Usually on the face or hands. (I have a spot like this on my leg, too. Atleast I think it’s this. It looks like I just dropped a drop of tanning cream on my leg or something. Idk.)
There are many types of scarring. Scars are caused by wounds to the body like cuts and burns. These can be any shape and occur anywhere. Scars do fade over time and become less noticeable.
Keloid scars: Result of an overly aggressive healing process. They may hamper movement, and are more common among darker skinned people.
Contracture scars: Burn scars. They tighten skin, which can impair movement.
Hypertrophic scars: Raised, red scars.
Acne scars: Result of, obviously, acne. These can be anything from deep pits to scars angular or wavelike in appearance.
Redness of the skin (some times pimples also); this is a skin disease.
Skin can also become red due to allergies- rashes- so perhaps think about your character’s allergies.
All aged people have them, really. Folds in the skin due to the thinning of skin, loss of elasticity, inability to retain moisture, less efficient oil glands, and slower healing rates.
Wrinkles are also caused my smoking, so if your character is a long time smoker they may have more wrinkles.
Small flaps of tissue that hang off the skin. They aren’t dangerous. They are found most commonly on women, especially with weight gain, or in elderly people.
Not a distinguishing mark, per say, but I might as well add it. It’s harmless but mildly embarrassing and sometimes itchy, so if your character has dandruff their scalp may itch. Dandruff has nothing to do with hair and everything to do with your scalp- it’s white flakes of dry skin. Also, it can apparently get worse with stress and cold, dry winters.
Other Distinguishing Marks
It’s really a series of puncture woulds that carry dye. The dye is in the scar tissue (hence, permanent, even as we loose layer after layer of skin). Also, tattoos may be swollen with some crusting on the surface at first. It may ooze small amounts of blood for 24 hours, and also may ooze clear, yellow, or blood-tinged fluid for several days. Ew.
You can pierce many parts of your body. Obviously, the most common is the earlobe. Cartilage piercings take longer to heal than earlobe piercings. Other popular sites are the mouth and tongue, the nose, eyebrows, navel, and genital area. Piercing sites can also swell or ooze some fluid at first. Think about your character’s allergies as well- many people are allergic to different types of metal.
Stuff to think about
Does your character squint? Maybe their nose is forever crooked after breaking their nose one too many times? There are a lot of diseases that can leave marks as well! Characters are like blank sheets, you get to mark them up. (That sounds kinda mean, but… you’re the author! It’s your job!)