Guest Blog Post: Physical Character Attributes in Fantasy by Melody Steiner

I tend to create characters with unique physical attributes. That’s because the reality is, when it comes to genetics, there’s still a lot we don’t understand. Yes, it is possible for a person to have hair growing all over their body including their face. Yes, it’s possible to have bark-like skin. It’s possible to be dark skinned and have blue eyes. It’s possible to be born of dark skinned people and have light skin. It’s possible to have red eyes. How? Don’t feel like explaining the science of it all. But a lot of things are possible outside of our norms.

I happen to be a person with dark skin and light eyes (hazel). And I routinely get singled out because of it. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Comment #1: some form of compliment.

Me: Thank you!

Comment #2: “Are they real or contacts?”

Me: Nope, they’re real.

Comment #3: some type of how did this happen question.

Me: attempt an explanation about dad with blue eyes and mom with brown that still doesn’t even really make sense to me, scientifically speaking.

I’m not especially sensitive about this, because I’m aware enough to know that people have a tendency to single out what looks different. But this is my ongoing experience, and a part of my normal interaction with society. Fundamentally, I suppose I am drawn to characters with unusual physical characteristics because I can, in a very small way, relate.

But you won’t see a character who’s in my novel’s inner circle ever singling someone out for looking different. You’ll see a lot of peripheral characters pointing and staring. My main cast is generally pretty accepting though. They may ask questions once they know someone and it is relevant to the plot. In different ways, every one of my main characters has experienced looks and stares for their own oddities, though, so they are aware enough to know what it feels like to always have to be explaining why they look the way they do.

For me, the goal is to write relatable characters that are fundamentally human–with all the flaws, quirks, and genetic perfections that entails.


Author Bio:

Melody Steiner is a novelist, librarian, warrior woman, and a mother. She grew up in a home where science fiction and fantasy were staples of the imagination. Her earliest novels were written in elementary school and involved rocket ships to the moon, alien life, and gumdrop kingdoms at war with other invading candy nations.

Over the years, she found herself drawn to fantasy stories that empower female characters and particularly women of color. Currently, she’s based near Columbus, Ohio, along with her husband and the wild things they call “children.”

Her recent work, Slither, is a traditional fantasy about a young woman who is enslaved by a herd of dragons. You can find her at or on her author facebook page:


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