Physical Thesaurus Attributes Entry: Chins and Jaws

Just a reminder for you NaNoWriMo'ers out there, that Ange and I are giving away 10 digital copies of The Emotional Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression to participants and winners. More info can be found here, or just skip right to the entry form :).

And now, on to today's Physical Attributes Entry:

CHINS & JAWS

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:
Chins: double or triple, flabby, fleshy, undercut, recessed, pointy, sharp, cleft, dimpled, weak, strong, stubborn, stubbly, bearded, pimply, square, prominent
Jaws: clenched, wide, square, wired shut, clicking, creaking, sore, loose, jowly


Things Chins Do: jut, gesture, point, lift, lower, quiver, tremble

Things Jaws Do: drop open, clench, break, lock, slide back and forth, pop or crack,

Key Emotions and Related Gestures: 

  • Anger: grinding teeth that result in a clenched jaw and "hard" chin; muscles jumping near the chin or jawline, tendons standing out; a chin that looks stronger or more prominent due to jutting out
  • Fear: chattering teeth due to a quivering jaw; clenching the teeth in an effort to keep the jaw still; dropping the jaw so as to breathe in more oxygen in preparation for what's to come
  • Sadness: a chin that quivers or trembles; a chin that drops to the chest; covering or rubbing the chin in an effort to hold back tears or keep others from noticing

Simile and Metaphor Help:                         
  • Megan's eyes flashed and she snapped her teeth shut. Her ever-pointy chin came at me like a missile.
  • Melvin towered over me, waiting for me to get up. I stayed where I was, working my jaw back and forth to test the damage. It creaked like a rusty barn door but seemed to be working.

Clichés to Avoid: elfin chins; glass jaws; a weak chin as a sign of a weasely, skeevy character


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: Hank leaned back in his chair, hands laced lightly over his torso, considering me. I couldn't look at his eyes, too scared to see his decision there, so I stared at his chin—dimpled and pale as a baby's bottom. But with the tiniest jerk, his goons would turn me into a bloody smear. I looked at the floor instead.


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

14 comments:

Traci Kenworth said...

A good detail to consider!!

Tracy Campbell said...

Weird, I just typed a comment, but it didn't take, so I'm trying again.
I had said, "I won't entry as I have your Emotion Thesaurus and I love it!
When can I purchase the Physical Thesaurus?"
Have a wonderful weekend, Becca and Angela if you're reading! :)
Tracy

Kelly Polark said...

Every detail counts!

Becca Puglisi said...

Tracy, so glad you're liking the new thesaurus. We're already working on our next thesaurus, so I'm afraid the wait for this one will be pretty long ;).

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks so much for this one, Becca!

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss becca! wow! another cool post for body parts. for sure it gonna help me with my writing. i was thinking a jaw dropping open could be like surprise or not believing something or shocked or saying hun? i cant wait til this book get out. i already been using the emotion thesaurus you sent me for my birthday and its helping me lots.
...hugs to you and miss angela from lenny

Tracy Campbell said...

Thanks for letting me know, Becca.
I'm glad you have the info on your blog though. It certainly helps. :)

cleemckenzie said...

Wish I were doing NaNo this year. I'd love to win your book. However, here's an idea . . . I buy it instead. Sounds like a plan to me.

As always you give great tips for writers.

Thanks.

cleemckenzie said...

Wish I were doing NaNo this year. I'd love to win your book. However, here's an idea . . . I buy it instead. Sounds like a plan to me.

As always you give great tips for writers.

Thanks.

Melissa Sugar said...

This is another excellent and helpful descriptive post. It just so happens, I needed a frightening facial description for my NaNo writing tonight and this was most helpfu. l am typing this on my Kindle so please excuse the errors. I'm not used to typing on it.

Melissa Sugar said...

This is another excellent and helpful descriptive post. It just so happens, I needed a frightening facial description for my NaNo writing tonight and this was most helpfu. l am typing this on my Kindle so please excuse the errors. I'm not used to typing on it.

nickypeacockauthor said...

Great Advice! Characters are so important and the more work you do on them, the more it adds to the overall effectiveness of your manuscript.

Matthew MacNish said...

Another awesome entry! The chin is so much more expressive than we often give it credit for.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

You guys are so awesome! Thanks for all of the great descriptions. :)

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