Physical Attribute Entry: Feet

WANA Commons, Lynn Kelley Author
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: 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!


Traci Kenworth said...

Love this new thesaurus!! It helps us go beyond the ordinary!!

Aimee Katherine said...

I love this!

Natalie Aguirre said...

This is great. Thanks so much.

Linda A. said...

This post reminds me of a student who is still wearing flip flops to school even though it's "frost on the pumpkin" season. I might not would have thought to add such a detail about him without your focus on feet. See how you spark readers imaginations?

Michelle Gregory said...

leave it to you ladies to come up with another thesaurus. :)

Martha Ramirez said...

Thank you for this!!!

Becca Puglisi said...

This entry is in dedicated to my husband, who has the weirdest feet ever. He's truly a testament to how even the most "normal" of body parts can be made unique :).

Tracy Campbell said...

I'm eating this up!

Louise Behiel said...

amazing thesaurus. wow

Susanne Drazic said...

Another great post. These thesauruses are so helpful. Thanks!

Heather said...

I love the idea of conveying emotion through the feet. Taking notes!

LTM said...

LOL! omg, y'all, I was thinking, "Not FEET! bleah!" But then I kept reading, and you're so right. Stomping, slapping, barefoot, old shoes. Feet convey a LOT!

Great post~ <3

Kelly Gathman said...

I write privately and I had to bookmark this! Only a select few read my stories. Been writing since I was 9-10 yrs old--Im almost 42 now. :) Thank u for this! It's very helpful.

lbdiamond said...

LOVING these posts!

Melissa Sugar said...

I love this new thesaurus. I love how you have given examples of action verbs showing what the feet do. This is a bonus in addition to the physical descriptions.

Liton said...

Lovely post. Wonder full blog. Thanks for sharing.....Dr. Luis Fandos


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