One way to balance the showing and telling of physical description is to showcase a few details that really help 'tell the story' about who your character is and what they've been through up to this point. Think about what makes them different and interesting. Can a unique feature, clothing choice or way they carry themselves help to hint at their personality? Also, consider how they move their body. Using movement will naturally show a character's physical characteristics, keep the pace flowing and help to convey their emotions.
|Flickr: Creative Commons, Yuliya Libkina|
Descriptors: wide, broad, muscular, bony, athletic, angular, stooped, slumped, curved, crooked, straight, hairy, strong, humped, tattooed
Key Emotions and How the Back is Involved:
- Backs aren't noticed very much because they're always...well, in the back. But as a key part of the body, the back/spine is involved in many emotional responses. It will slump when a person feels sad, disappointed, or embarrassed. Alternatively, it straightens to show pride, confidence, defensiveness, or anger. Surprise or fear can cause the back to stiffen or freeze.
Simile and Metaphor Help:
- She had a swimmer's back, broad enough to carry her own troubles and a few other's besides.
- I hugged him tight and tried not to gasp. His back felt like a topographical map, the vertebrae a mountain range I could scale with my fingers.
Clichés to Avoid: a shiver running up the spine; a crooked spine that curves like an "s"; a ramrod straight spine
HINT: When describing any part of the body, try to use cues that show the reader more than just a physical description. Make your descriptions do double duty. Example: Miriam was stooped over almost double, eyes on the ground, her slippered feet feeling their way along the driveway. Getting from the front door to the mailbox was a real journey these days, and it made her back ache something awful. The new mailgirl had offered to bring Miriam's things to the porch, but...She smacked her lips and jabbed the concrete with her walking stick. If she couldn't make it to the mailbox and get her own bills, she might as well start picking out coffins.
BONUS TIP: The Colors, Textures & Shapes Thesaurus in our sidebar might help you find a fresh take on some of the descriptors listed above!
Angela and I are THRILLED to announce that we've signed with a foreign rights agent! Marleen Seegers of 2 Seas Agency will be representing The Emotion Thesaurus internationally. We're super-excited to be working with Marleen, who has many years of international publishing experience and has been a joy to work with. Since we signed with her on Monday, Marleen has already received some interest from Korea, so we couldn't be happier!