Something that I’ve come to believe is popular opinion: it’s better to describe characters as little as possible, if at all. I believe this is a popular opinion due to the fact that I have heard from and read of a great deal of people who hold it. I find myself inclined to disagree.
One of the first facets/symptoms of a Mary Sue that I tend to hear Dither mention when called upon to explain to someone unaware of the term is that the character accused of Sue-ness is described in inordinate detail and with tremendous frequency. (although he sounds less of a ponce when he says it) In spite of this, I don’t think that describing a character is enough to even get started at making one’s character a Mary Sue. It’s more the attitude that leads to the excessively detailed presentment.
When people tell me that a feature they like in a book is that the characters are not described, I think they are mistaken. They don’t necessarily like that. The book is simply written so well that they don’t want anything more from it, coinciding with the fact that the characters are not given physical descriptions. (e.g., the lame hair/eye combo) Most importantly, a reader is able to obtain a mental impression of the characters by their actions, the setting, and the story.
“He stood against the buffeting shouts like a mountain in the face of a gale” could imply the character’s build. And that’s just the most direct example I can imagine right now.
I think other people are just as sick as I am of the rote physical descriptions that most writers provide. So other writers are considered (or consider themselves to be) superior by way of not describing any physical characteristics at all. This, I feel, goes too far the other way.
It’s almost cheating. I have yet to see a bad writer try it, as far as I can recall just now. Probably if a bad writer did consciously refrain from describing his or her characters, the result would be a Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue. That’s my assumption, anyway.
There’s my two cents. It’s not a boon to have character description essentially missing from the narrative. It’s simply being delivered in a better way than, “He’s got brown hair and blue eyes.”
Maybe everything is down to habits.