Physical Attribute Entry: Chest

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.


photo credit: lta362 via photopin cc

MEN (CHEST): brawny, smooth, hairy, firm, curly, broad, narrow, warm, sculpted, hard, strong, well-defined, chiseled, toned, pecs, pectorals, heavy, sagging, deep, flabby, bumpy, thick, skinny, bony, concave, sweaty, gleaming, solid, muscular, lean, tanned, tattooed, scrawny, athletic, spindly, thin, bulging, scarred, nipples, nips, narrow, defined, pale, taut, hardened

WOMEN (BREASTS): busty, big-chested, full, flat, sagging, well-endowed, buxom, busty, stacked, built, curvy or curvaceous, heavy, slopes, rounded, shapely, petite, cleavage, tanned,  voluptuous, bouncing, jiggling, small-breasted, peaks, mountains, mounds, valley cleavage, soft, silky, smooth, alabaster, tanned, bronzed, droopy, low, high, perky, pillows, overflowing, straining, ample, thin, boobs, ta-tas

Things Breasts/Chests Do:
  • Thrust: chests and breasts are a sexual area that is closely tied into a person's self esteem and instinctive, primal response. Baring a chest or thrusting it out is either a sexual display, an action to show strength and confidence, and (especially in males) a way to show aggression if feeling threatened.
  • Feed: This one's just for the ladies of course, but breast feeding is the function of breasts.

Key Emotions: 
  • Desire:  Touching and caressing the chest or breasts between compatible, romantic pairs is a way to show affection and amp up sexual desire. Women and men find this attribute an attractive feature in others that match their sexual preferences, and even if one is in a committed relationship with someone else, looking (without being creepy or pervy about it) and appreciating this attribute is healthy and normal.
  • Surprise/Shock: If a person is surprised, it is normal for their hand to fly to their chest in automatic response.
  • Confidence/Pride: Both women and men thrust their chests out slightly when feeling energized by confidence or pride.
  • Anger/Rage/Hatred: These negative emotions bring out the 'Fight' in fight or flight, and the instinctive response is to make oneself look bigger and more imposing. Both men and women will thrust out their chests when threatened. 
Simile and Metaphor Help:         
  • Linda gasped, her breasts lifting up in her tube top like oranges ready to spill from a fruit basket.
  • Alex's chest was hard and lean, muscular without being overdone. I ran my hands over the plains of his skin, my light touch a wind brushing the Sahara.               
    Clichés to Avoid:

    • describing a woman's breasts as beach balls, balloons, etc. 
    • breasts that 'heave'
    • A chest that is 'as hard as a rock'

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


    Johanna Garth said...

    Great post and good reminder to wear supportive undergarments that prevent me from looking like I have oranges ready to roll out of a fruit basket.

    Angela Ackerman said...

    Seeing as I don't write romance at all, I was struggling to write something descriptive without feeling all pervy, haha.

    If anyone has more descriptors, fire them out and I'll add them in. This is a challenging area so the more the better! :)

    Becca Puglisi said...

    Whew. Good job, Ange, lol. I know that was tough :).

    Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

    Ha ha. Johanna!

    Great job, Angela. (Also, I notice that when I try to stand up straight/look more acceptable--meaning THINNER--,I stand up straight which, you know, makes "them" stand out. So, "she pulled her shoulders back, and..." Yeah... Better Angela does the writing about this, I think. LOL)

    Sharon K. Mayhew said...

    Great job, Ang! You made me blush a little with your examples. :)

    Marcia said...

    Yeah, that fruit basket one was awesome. :)

    Teresa Robeson said...

    I cracked up reading this because it did seem like I was reading a romance novel (which I don't read and apparently you don't write...LOL!). Like the others said, you did a great job with a difficult topic, Angela!

    Robert Foster said...

    If this was awkward, I guess that means your not going to mention that area between the hips, huh?

    For a simile, maybe, "Layla shifted under her son, who used her breasts like a downy pillow."?

    Stina Lindenblatt said...

    Not much longer, Angela, and I see you joining me on the romance-writing side. :D

    Susan Flett Swiderski said...

    Heaving? Beach balls? At my age, it's more like wheezing and deflated beach balls. Oh, who am I kidding? Make that ping pong balls. HA!

    Great post.

    Leslie S. Rose said...

    Valley cleavage made me snort laugh.

    Angela Ackerman said...

    Haha, you guys your comments are killing me. ROTF.

    @Robert, Becca and I have to try and keep our blog 'PG or lower' just because we have so many elementary classes that link to us for writing resources. So yes, a few body parts will be purposefully skipped!

    Southpaw said...

    I must admit there are a few new descriptions of the chest I haven't heard before.


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