Discussion: The Height and Weight of it All


This might just be a “me” thing, but I don’t always need to know the height and weight of a character.

Is this something that’s overdone a bit in books? I mean, to really know a character do we NEED to know their size and stature? There are some books that are very specific and other books are a bit more vague and I have to say that I prefer a little more vagueness. I think there are definitely other ways that you can have your reader identify with your characters that DON’T involve their height or weight.

OK, this might not seem like such a big thing, let alone something for a discussion topic, but here are two points I’m thinking specifically about:

  • Girls in books being short. What’s wrong with average height girls? I find that more times than not, the female lead in a book is bound to be either super short (like close to only 5 feet) or super tall.
  • Men being super tall. I notice this mostly in romance books — actually, I find that height and weight are pointed out mostly in these books — and the men are ALWAYS tall. It’s like the women are always close to 5-feet tall and the men are around 6-feet or so.

Of course, I’ve also noticed that girls in books tend to describe themselves as NOT good looking and average, whereas the men are usually described as gods, super handsome, and RARELY are they described as not-so-great looking. Is this fair? Is this just a cliche that I’m talking about?

And, really, does it even matter? Should height and weight be something that defines your characters? Or should you try to work in other characteristics to get your readers to identify with them?

What are your thoughts on how height and weight are depicted in some books? Is it necessary?  



20 thoughts on “Discussion: The Height and Weight of it All

  1. I always think it’s a bit odd that there is so much emphasis on the height of a person. Is that really the first thing you notice about someone? Especially since 80% of all people you meet are pretty much average height.

    The romance cliché of an average looking small woman with “curves in all the right places” and the tall handsome god is so tiring to me. It would be nice to see a heroine with a decent self esteem once in a while, and a hero that looks like a normal person. Maybe *gasps* even a hero that does not have a sixpack

  2. I find that the height thing is exactly how you described it – the girls are either really short or really tall but the guys are ALWAYS really tall.
    I don’t think it’s necessary and I definitely don’t think it should define the character. It’s not a trait, it’s just an aspect. I can get why it is mentioned in moments where two characters are standing in front of each other or something that would really make a character notice a height difference but the emphasis on such a thing tends to annoy me. I am all for imagining a character in my own head 😀

    • Ha ha … no kidding, right? Though you do have your red hair … that’s a unique feature! I’m just average height, brown eyes, brown hair … so boring!

      • Yes, the red hair does make me stick out. I told Chris that Kailyn is going to be the envy of all the girls growing up.. she has red hair AND green eyes! I don’t know where she got them from..lol

  3. I’m actually not too interested in character descriptions in general. If it’s not plot-relevant, then I don’t see why it matters. The character could be short, tall, black,white, ugly, or pretty and it has no bearing on whether they’re going to successfully save the world or have a happy romance or whatever. I’m all for the Jane Austen approach of not bothering to describe what your characters look like at all.

    I do see your point about there being a lot of short girls in books, though, now that you mention it. I think authors think it makes them “cute,” especially if there’s going to be a romance. (I’ve also noticed an authorial obsession with writing about how a guy’s big hand can envelope a girl’s tiny one–tied to the girl’s being short.) But, it might be more realistic to write about how a short girl/tall guy romance can be a little physically awkward. Kissing isn’t adorable if you have to jump to reach the guy.

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  5. This just made me realize how much I HATE that girls with dynamic personalities, especially in older YA and NA, have to be barely 5 feet so they can be “short and spunky” because a girl that’s 5’9 has to be reserved to make up for her height?

    Or, if a girl is tall, then the romantic interest has to be EVEN TALLER. If she’s 5’11, he’s going to be 6’5. I wonder if it’s tall authors who do this. Or really short ones who wish to be super tall?

    People can be average height! That’s why it’s the AVERAGE height! I say this as a solid 5’4, so I might be biased.

    • Hey, I completely agree with you! What’s wrong with average height? Why must these spunky girls be short? And tall guys? I think I can count on one hand the amount of guys I’ve met over 6 feet in the last while. I guess writers don’t want their characters to be average?

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  7. I’m on both sides of the fence. Like Tanya mentioned, it enables me to picture the characters better. But when the heroine is short, I find it hard to relate – especially when the hero is super tall compared to her. And for me, anything under 5’6″ is short. And that, at times, can be distracting.

  8. Interesting post, Kristilyn. For some reason I’ve not really noticed this thing about height. Although, if I find out a character is 5’2, I’m happy to know that the world through her eyes looks a lot like mine. Haha. Maybe all the times that height isn’t mentioned in books, it’s because the characters are of average heights?

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