|photo credit: César Augusto Serna Sz via photopin cc|
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: arched, curved, shaped, waxed, patchy, bushy, shaved, colored, bleached, unruly, plucked, waxed, joined, furry, cottony, strips, high, bald, pierced, thick, dark, pale, angled, bent, scarred, tattooed, lined, uni-brow, symmetrical; tinted; over tweezed, dirty, scaly
Things Eyebrows Do
- Furrow: gather, pinch, tighten, draw together, join, press, meld; knit
- Raise: lift, rise, arch, jump, boost, hike
- Lower: crouch, slump, slant, sink, collapse
Key Emotions and Related Eyebrow Gestures:
- Surprise: Eyebrow shoot up with shock or may rise gradually at a slower realization or surprise. The brows are difficult to control, and so even if a character is trying to hide their surprise, often their brows will lift slightly before they are able to bring them under control
- Fear: brows draw together and curl slightly when the character is afraid, contrasting with a widening of the eyes. A wrinkle appears between the brows
- Sympathy: The brows draw down and together ever so slightly
Simile and Metaphor Help:
- When Uncle Dean laughed, his eyebrows jiggled like two barking poodles.
- Sara's eyebrows stretched out, sleek and graceful, a pair of falcons in flight.
Clichés to Avoid: raising a single eyebrow, overusing an arched eyebrow as a response to a stupid question; eyebrows that furrow constantly
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:
Great Aunt Neddie slapped down her gin and tonic, hitched up her pantyhose and lurched across the dance floor to Edward's handsome Uncle Reese. Her uneven gait made her feathery eyebrows weave like two battered rowboats, but her eyes were fixed on the one that got away.
BONUS TIP: The Colors, Textures & Shapes Thesaurus in our sidebar might help you find a fresh take on some of the descriptors listed above!