|WANA Commons, Lynn Kelley Author|
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: dry, cracked, bony, stinky, flat, arched, hairy, dainty, dirty, calloused, bunioned, rough, tan, pale, long, short, knobby, ticklish, heavy, leathery , clumsy, loud, quiet
Things Feet Do (and other words/phrases to describe those actions)
Run: hurry, race, dash, dart, flee, hustle, jog, scramble, scurry, scamper
Walk: amble, meander, ramble, saunter, step, stride, hike, lumber, pace, plod, roam, shamble, shuffle, stroll, strut, toddle, tramp
Tiptoe: whisper, sneak, steal, patter, pad
Key Emotions and Related Foot Gestures:
Anger: stamp, kick, run, stomp, crush, hammer, pound, trudge
Worry: shuffle, nudge, scuff, shift, scrape, jitter, tingle, jump, fidget, pace
Sadness: drag, shamble, stumble, trip, weaken, go numb or limp
Simile and Metaphor Help:
- Loud: I prayed no one would hear us as we crept down the hall, but with Gayle’s duck feet slapping the tile, it was only a matter of time.
- Hairy: He had feet like a hobbit’s: brown and leathery and in need of a comb.
Clichés to Avoid: two left feet, tripping over one’s own feet, clown feet, feet like boats
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: Dicey saw the woman the moment the woman saw her. The woman sat on the bottom of some steps facing out, over more fields (only these had crops growing in them) and the distant dull green of marsh grass. She wore a shapeless blouse over a long, shapeless skirt. Her feet were bare and caked with earthy dirt. (Homecoming, Cynthia Voigt)
BONUS TIP: The Colors, Textures and Shapes Thesaurus in our sidebar might help you find a fresh take on some of the descriptors listed above!