Eons ago, in another life, I was having a book discussion with my then significant other. Okay, it was more like an argument. He absolutely insisted that a particular character was a brunette and I was totally certain she was a blonde. It actually got to the point where he stomped over to the bookshelf, flipped through the pages furiously, and stabbed a finger at the passage that proved he was right. Well, I'll be damned, she was a brunette. :shrug: In my head, though, she's still a blonde.
And, for me, that's what it's all about. Not whether the author created a character to look a certain way, but the way that character looks in a reader's head. This is probably why adaptations of books for movies or television irritate me so. I have my own concept of a character in my head and it never matches what the casting director has seen fit to put on the screen.
As a writer, I understand the need to have readers see what is in my head, to describe everything exactly. But I also understand if the reader doesn't adhere to my image. I want readers to see what they want to see. So, I try to describe just enough to let the reader come up with their own idea. The only time I've gone beyond this, I think, is with my Once Upon a Djinn series. I found a cover model who is the embodiment of how I see Jo. (My apologies if she doesn't match how you saw Jo, but I needed a full frontal model for this series.)
When you step in, though, you run the risk of changing a reader's image. Humphrey Bogart will always be Sam Spade to me. Gary Sinise is now and forever Stu Redman. That little girl actress will pop up as Scout whenever I read the book. Dorothy will always have the face of Judy Garland. It is what it is, but I had different ideas of Stu and Dorothy before I watched the movies. (Yes, I read The Wizard of Oz before I watched the movie. Long story.) Now, my original images are erased and replaced. Which is kind of sad, but there's nothing I can do about it.
So, anyway, I hope I provide enough information to give readers a platform on which to build their own image of my characters. I suspect for some it's not enough, but I can only do what I can do.
What do you think? Do you like everything described perfectly or would you rather build your own mental image?