Physical Attributes Thesaurus: Legs

Courtesy of Nicholas_T

Physical description of a character can be difficult to convey—too much will slow the pace or feel 'list-like', while too little will not allow readers to form a clear mental image. If a reader cannot imagine what your character looks like, they may have trouble connecting with them on a personal level, or caring about their plight. 

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.


Descriptors: shapely, curvy, scrawny, thin, plump, muscular, sinewy, athletic, long, stumpy, stubbly, hairy, sleek, tanned, pale, veined, strong, wobbly, spindly, bowed, weak

Things Legs Do (and other words/phrases to describe those actions)
  • Move: run, walk, jog, stride, sprint, pump, piston, leap, jump, dash, dart, lope, trot, pummel
  • Dance: boogie, cavort, careen, hop, jive, frolic, prance, caper, jitter

Key Emotions and Related Leg Gestures: 
  • Nervousness: tingle, tremble, shiver, quiver, shake, shift, cross/uncross, pace
  • Terror: give out, collapse, bolt, run, seize, go limp, lose strength, wobble
  • Excitement: jitter, bounce, jump

Simile and Metaphor Help

  • Her legs were as shaky as a new colt’s.
  • Adrenaline flooded my body, turning my scrawny legs to pistons.

Clichés to Avoid
: legs like tree trunks, toothpicks, or chicken legs

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: Jenna’s legs were all muscle, pushing and pulling and working with no sign of fatigue. Right now, she was just running a treadmill; if she ever had to escape a psychotic lunatic, my money was on Jenna.

BONUS TIP: The Colors, Textures & Shapes Thesaurus in our sidebar might help you find a fresh take on some of the descriptors listed above! 


Traci Kenworth said...

Great one!!

Southpaw said...

Oooo, very nice.

Marissa said...

THANK YOU. I'm working on cutting out all my crutch phrases right now, and these entries are my new best friend.

Martha Ramirez said...

Very nice! I hope you guys come out with another book with entries like this too :)

Marcia said...

Yes, we hear chicken legs a lot, don't we? And also toothpick, mostly in connection with thighs. Maybe because so many people want them. :D

Tracy Campbell said...

Hi Becca,
I can't get enough of these posts. Great job! :)

Surya Vaidyanathan said...

Brilliant posts! They're all ever so useful. I'm personally waiting to read one about chins. :P

Leslie S. Rose said...

Uh oh, the guy in the picture better not move those legs if his shorts are too baggy. We might get to know him better.

Becca Puglisi said...

Surya, chins are coming soon :).

Marcia, toothpick legs are a GREAT addition. Forgot about that one.

And Leslie, I agree, lol. I checked it out carefully before I posted it to make sure it was appropriate. Then I felt a little pervy...

So glad you're all enjoying the new series :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...