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Rated: E · Article · Action/Adventure · #1919205
The use of a Mirror scene to describe a character: An opportunity or a gag point?

Character looks in the mirror: An opportunity or a gag point for some people?

*** Warning: The following is rather boring.

Unless you are interested in writing a mirror scene in your novel, I suggest you skip this entry.

The following is the results of about 10 hours of internet searches and interviews:

Input from source # 1: Go for it! You don't have to follow these sorts of rules all the time. Do what works best for your book. It is all right to use cliches a little. It's when you use them alot that it can turn into bad writing. I think its natural reaction that if a character is going to go through a transformation they would look at themselves in a mirror and gasp. It's when people write long, boring descriptions of people getting up in the morning and staring at themselves blankly in the mirror above the bathroom sink that irks people.

Input from source #2: I think the mirror works – [It is realistic because sometime it is the way we see ourselves] and it is where a lot of our self-image comes from.

Source # 3: It's almost a rhetorical question. Of course, characters look in the mirror so that they can describe themselves in a way that seems "natural." I know this because I've had about a thousand characters look into about a thousand reflective surface or more in the time I've been writing.

Source #4: Lots of writers use this method, so like many cliches, they’re not so much irksome individually as they are repetitive for readers when compared with the others books they have read., they’ve read the mirror scene so many times that, even though it may only appear once in your story, readers often already feel like they’ve read it a thousand times. Readers bring their entire history with them when they read something new. New for you is not necessarily new for them.

Source # 5: Miranda inspected herself in the mirror. Long blonde hair curled softly around a heart-shaped face. Her best feature was her eyes, wide and liquid brown with golden flecks. Her cheekbones were a bit too high, her nose patrician, her lips slightly too full. She adjusted the neckline of her purple velvet gown, pulling it up slightly to hide her her well-formed bosom. The dress accented the slimness of her waist...

Ack! I've read far too many descriptions like this. Romance novels, while not the only ones to blame, are in general the worst offenders.

Source # 6: As to mirrors...
I try to avoid them at all costs, as they are cliche-inducing,
[Even if it fits into the scene as a realistic event, some readers, who are wanna be writers, will vomit to show they know something about how not to write a story.]

Source 7: I hate when authors tell the character's full description at the beginning of the piece (ex. Brielle had pin straight shoulder length blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. She was blessed with a slender figure- small waist and long legs, etc. etc.) [Mirrors are okay, if they don’t overdo it] - [Saying to never use a mirror in a scene is unrealistic and is cheating the reader.]

Source 8: I have no problem with mirrors so long as that's not your only gimmick. Take Divergent by Veronica Roth, where we first meet Beatrice when she is getting her hair cut by her mother.

Source 9: The classical tricks (they look in a mirror or see their reflection in a lake) are not allowed by agents anymore because most readers are also part-time writers and think they are showing their expertise by condemning (all) mirror scenes.

Source 10: Let me present a cliché many newbie writers are warned to not use: having their character look into a mirror to describe their appearance.

But remember, there are no absolutes in writing. Rules are meant to be broken shattered, and often it produces a better outcome than if the rule was followed.

The reason why the “mirror cliché” works in this case because the narrator rarely sees her face. It solves the first two points I listed. The scene is presented in a way that she (Beatrice) is brought to the mirror naturally, to have her hair cut. After three months, she has every reason to sneak a look. But it also says a lot about her living conditions, without telling.

While the passage ends with a (brief) list of physical traits, that’s excusable. In the end, the author takes a cliché, twists it, and creates a hook that helped make the book successful.

My observations:

The mirror scene, when it was first used in the Bible and in Shakespeare, was an intelligent and useful method of describing a character to your heart’s content, both physical appearances and it opened the door for thought processes so the reader could get into the characters mind for a short time.

However, in today’s world of almost all avid readers thinking of themselves as potential authors, If you like to gamble, you can use a mirror scene.

To play it safe, avoid mirror scenes at all cost. Why? Like one of my sources mentioned, “wanna be authors who read your story will claim their expertise in writing by condemning you for using a mirror scene. It is their badge of honor to know that mirror scenes are considered trickery by the powers that be in the field of literature.”

Famous published authors can use a mirror scene and get it approved. Unpublished or not-so-famous authors will face an up-hill battle when trying to use a mirror scene.

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