If you would, please read the following:
The woman in red approached the dancing couple and delivered a slap to her husband that almost rattled the high crystal chandeliers.
~ and ~
The short, buxom woman walked into the room. She had curly blonde hair, a plump face and cold eyes that sparkled like diamonds. Her dress was red and matched her ruby heels. She approached the dancing couple and delivered a slap to her husband that almost rattled the high crystal chandeliers.
So...what do we have?
Go on, it's okay. You can say it: Totally boring description (with a cliche thrown in, too).
Describing a character's appearance is a tightrope act. Too little, and they walk the wire from one end to the other, nebulous and unremarkable, forgotten the moment they step to safely. Too much, and they become a giant, colorful blob trapped on the line, unable to move forward. Pace is stalled, and nothing is left to the reader's imagination because it's all right there in the spotlight.
|Effie, Hunger Games|
Why do the above excerpts not work? In addition to them having too little or too much description, what's shown isn't compelling. It doesn't pull us in, help to shape the character, or give us clues as to who this woman in red is or what makes her unique.
The right detail or two will characterize and help paint a picture of who a person is. Hands rubbed raw from washing dishes all afternoon in scalding water. (hardworking, a provider.) Skin, doll-smooth, layered in foundation so thick it leaves a ring at the jawline (vanity, superficial, self-absorbed). A workman's lurching walk, his faded overalls threadbare at the knees (sacrifice, poverty, pain). These details tell a story. They characterize. And most importantly, they are memorable.
|District 12 Workmen|
The Physical Attributes Thesaurus will look at the bodies of our characters, part by part, and provide micro details that will help writers brainstorm ways to create memorable imagery for the reader to connect with. We'll provide a descriptive word list to help you convey character movement and communication, and offer ideas to get you thinking about how a particular attribute might be used to show your character's unique personality and emotions.
Each Thursday or Saturday we will add to the thesaurus, and all entries can be found in the sidebar. We hope you'll enjoy this new descriptive collection!