Physical Attribute Thesaurus: Eyebrows


photo credit: César Augusto Serna Sz via photopin cc
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.



EYEBROWS


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! 

20 comments:

JeffO said...

Another part of the body I tend to overuse...

Francene Stanley said...

Great words. Thanks once again.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips to get away from those nasty cliches.

Alyianna said...

Thank you. This is very helpful/useful. :)

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

Someone that tweezes their eyebrow could be meticulous or gay.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Yes, it's easy to overuse eyebrows because people tend to overuse their eyebrows. Like rolling your eyes.

Sarah Kolb-Williams said...

I love it! The "cliches to avoid" part -- so true. I recently edited a book where the main character was constantly raising an eyebrow! We worked it out -- but this was funny to see. Great post!

E. M. LaBonte said...

Great post. There are some great examples of how to be a bit more creative with describing/using eyebrows. I tend to overuse this myself. Thanks!

Z said...

Oh my goodness, thank you for this! I LOVE eyebrows, but I grimace every. single. time I have (do I really have to, or am I just really wanting to because I love them?) describe somebody's eyebrows because I can't seem to break away from the cliches. Thank you for this. I might have to print it and staple it to my wall where I can see it every time I sit to write.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love this post. I've stood in front of the mirror, analyzing what my eyebrows do with certain facial expressions. Now I don't have to. :D

Angela Ackerman said...

Haha, Stina, I've one that too! I think the eyebrows are important because we naturally focus on he eyes as we communicate. What the eyebrows do as we speak often help us interperet emotion. In books we shouldn't rely on eyes or the face overmuch, but it would ring false if we didn't give a few mentions within the story.

Glad this post is helpful!

Marian Perera said...

The cliche to avoid is so true for me. I have to make a conscious effort not to have characters raising a single eyebrow a la Mr. Spock.

I once knew someone who had no hair on his head at all, so he drew his eyebrows on. They didn't just look artificial, they looked scary. And each time I spoke to him, I had to concentrate on looking into his eyes instead.

cleemckenzie said...

I love eyebrows, but I do try not to overuse them, especially after reading some of my early stories. OMG, cliched eyebrows are everywhere!

Tracy Campbell said...

What can I say, but keep them coming.
I hadn't thought much about eyebrows other the usual cliches.
Thanks,
Tracy

Melissa J H. said...

This was a lot of fun, I just got back into writing and now will always think of your post when I think about eyebrows.

Traci Kenworth said...

Hmmm, I need to go back through and look for use of raising a single brow in response to something...

lbdiamond said...

Excellent tips!

Becca Puglisi said...

That Great Aunt Neddie example is awesome! And I love the idea of a character with dirty eyebrows...

Kelly Polark said...

I am seriously obsessed with eyebrows. So I really, really like this post. :) Seriously.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Eyebrows can be fun, but like others who have commented here, I do tend to overdo the eyebrow "talk." It gets a little ridiculous. Thank goodness for revisions. : )

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