The Issue of Race Part Four: Using Metaphorical Language

Hello Lovelies,

Last post, we talked about describing skin tone, and I gave a guide to help writers properly distinguish shades, and how to use these colors in their writing. However, not everything is as simple as ‘she had bronze skin’ or ‘he had ivory skin’.

Writers need to use physical descriptions as a way to paint an image of a character that reflects their purpose in the story, as well as their personality. In my upcoming novel, I write on a character (we’ll name him Mark for now) who has just arrived to a new city in the hopes of finding work as a couturier. Before moving, he lived on an island that was mostly hot.

I described his complexion as being ‘sandy’, as well as tie in his love for the beach. From this imagery, you can gather that my character is has fair skin with a strong tan, and is carefree, just like sand. While this is just an idea, I’ll give you a few examples to work from.

She walked the rocky, muddy path, umber-colored feet almost blending in with the dirt underneath her. The village was just a few feet ahead, but but the sun beating down on her back made it hard for her to reach there fast.

Other examples:

John picked up the bouquet, pink roses to go with the pink cheeks that stood out from his wife’s soft, ivory complexion. He couldn’t wait to see the look on her face. He knew she loved roses; the fragrance of the flower had always reminded her of the first time they’d met.

Carla picked up the old photo album, the dust from it blowing in the air. Her mother looked so much like her: dark brown eyes amid golden skin and wavy brown hair. But at the same time, they were so different. Carla was a bit darker, more of her father’s complexion, and she was curvier too, her hips jotting out her sides, in comparison to her mother’s more slender figure.

By using metaphorical language, describing skin tone becomes easier and less challenging. It is important to know that speckling these words throughout your writing will feel less clunky and more natural. Try to keep descriptions to one or three sentences, adding other information around it that would add to the story rather than take away from it.

Here are two excerpts from chapter one of my first novel, which is out now.

Levi’s lips formed a frown. It was funny: Levi looked like a person who should be feared: he was the color of porcelain; his skin drastically contrasting the smooth black hair that seemed like it was molded with wax. Even though the Ehol was beautiful, he was downright eerie; even Yugi couldn’t shake that feeling from his gut.


As cold and menacing as Kireh tried to make himself, Yugi could still see beyond the scopes of his façade. Yugi considered Kireh as a younger brother, his darker side, so to speak. Although if one saw Kireh, they would have mistaken him to be a happy-go-lucky Ehol like Yugi. Kireh’s ginger-colored hair and freckles stood out in contrast to his sandy complexion, giving him an innocent and playful look. But he had prominent temples that reminded Yugi that he was still cold and rigid.

Below, I included a larger excerpt in chapter one, where the actual physical description gives a bit of insight to the character. Often, when a writer spends time describing a character it means several things:

  • The character is very important
  • The physical description is important to the setting of the book.

In this case, it was important for my character, Bry. He is an Ehol, but his extravagant beauty makes Yugi ponder if Bry has a secret deeper than what he was letting off. This is one case where description is important because in my book ‘beauty signifies Power’ as explained below.

Bry was different from the other Ehols. Of all the Ehols that currently sat in the room, Bry was the oldest and most Powerful. But, Bry never spoke about his past life, never mentioned his own Eholic Clan, and he never entertained any question that threatened to unravel it. Yugi wondered about Bryël sometimes. Ehols by nature were considered to hold god-like beauty — it was a part of their complexity that made them stand out from among mere Aingeals. And beauty signified Power. But Bry, although Yugi considered him to be the most enthralling, had a sensuality and an intrepidity that came with his Power.

Bry was brown-skinned with a rosiness to his complexion that made him seem young and innocent. However, his eyes spoke of other things: down-turned, silver eyes said to Yugi that the Ehol saw and knew things too dark for even a Death Ehol to want to know. The Ehol held soft creases beneath those eyes, and although his eyes captured an intense look that was truthfully alluring, those same eyes were piercing and enigmatic.

Please understand that the above examples are not set-in stone. You should go about describing your characters in ways that will enhance your book and your character. Try to keep physical descriptions at a minimum throughout the book. Once you’ve described a character, there is no need to mention it again unless it’s a romantic book/romantic subplot, the description is the driving factor of the book, or it is absolutely necessary to a particular scene or interaction.

In the next post, we’ll be talking about using other attributes that isn’t skin tone to imply race. We’ll also be talking about using attributes to create a character image that doesn’t rely on physical description to do the job.

Check out my next post: Describing other Attributes