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.
|Courtesy of Wikipedia|
Descriptors: plump, full, pouty, sultry, thin, fat, dry, cracked, scabby, split, pierced, chapped, swollen, collagen-inflated, pursed, puckered, pale, blue, symmetrical, upturned, downturned
Things Lips Do (and other words/phrases to describe those actions)
- Smile: grin, smirk, simper, sneer, twist, upturn, lift
- Frown: grimace, moue, scowl, pout
- Kiss: smooch, smack, peck, graze, caress, skim, tickle, flick, brush
Key Emotions and Related Lip Gestures:
People mess with their lips quite a bit. When nervous or uncertain, it's common for people to bite or chew on the lips as well as rubbing a hand or fingers over them. The lips are often mashed together when someone is holding back their true feelings or opinions. When someone is feeling happy or content, they might whistle, hum, or smile, while disgust is shown by wrinkling or curling the lips back from the teeth. Frowning is a common sign that someone is unhappy, angry, sad, or confused.
Simile and Metaphor Help:
- I woke up with lips the size of California. Must've been the sushi.
- One more day in this cold and my lips'll be flaking off like fish scales.
Clichés to Avoid: a sensual person with plump, full lips; the flirty girl with pouty lips
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: I watch myself in the mirror across the room. Ugh. Two muddy-circle eyes under black-dash eyebrows, piggy-nose nostrils, and a chewed-up horror of a mouth. I can't stop biting my lips. It looks like my mouth belongs to someone else, someone I don't even know. I get out of bed and take down the mirror. I put it in the back of my closet, facing the wall. (Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson)
BONUS TIP: The Colors, Textures & Shapes Thesaurus in our sidebar might help you find a fresh take on some of the descriptors listed above!