KathySteinemann.com: Free Resources for Writers and Poets

Word lists, cheat sheets, and sometimes irreverent reviews of writing rules. kathy steinemann is the author of the writer's lexicon series..

body description writing

500+ Ways to Describe Body Build and Physique

Body Build Cheat Sheet for Writers

(Discover even more words in The Writer’s Body Lexicon .)

Brevity or Verbal Diarrhea?

Some authors fill multiple paragraphs when describing each character.

Stephen King’s advice: “Thin description leaves the reader feeling bewildered and nearsighted. Overdescription buries him or her in details and images.”

Romance, science fiction, or fantasy usually requires more description than a whodunit. The writer’s duty when describing characters is to compromise between the desire to depict every wrinkle, and the need to keep readers engaged.

This post provides ways to describe bodies and physiques. Well-chosen words create vivid imagery without slowing action or boring readers.

You may notice a few unfamiliar descriptors in the mini lists that follow. It is definitesolutely permitted to create new words, even (oh, the blasphemy!) adverbs.

Weight: Above-Average

Proceed with caution. Many of these terms are pejorative and may alienate readers if not used wisely.

For example, a school bully might describe his latest victim as porky, but a husband should keep such opinions to himself, unless those opinions appear via internal monologue — an excellent way for a writer to reveal a character’s true sentiments.

A to F ample, baggy, baggy-figured, beer-bellied, big-bellied, big-boned, bloated, blubbery, broad, bulging, bulky, chubby, chunky, corpulent, cumbersome, curvaceous, dimpled, doughy, dumpy, elephantine, fat, fatso, flabby, fleshy, full-figured

G to R generously padded, generously proportioned, gross, heavily built, heavy, heavy-set, hefty, Humpty Dumptyish, large, large-boned, matronly, obese, overheavy, overweight, paunchy, plump, podgy, ponderous, porky, portly, potbellied, pudgy, puffy, roly-poly

S to W sloppy, squat, stocky, stout, sumoesque, swollen, thick, thickset, tubby, ungainly, unwieldly, weighty, well-fed, well-padded, well-rounded, wide

Weight: At or Below-Average

Several of the adjectives in this section could also appear in the Height: Tall area. For example: beanstalk and lanky .

A to R aerodynamic, angular, beanstalk, bony, delicate, fine-boned, gangly, lank, lanky, lean, lissome, lithe, meager of body, narrow, rawboned

S to W scraggy, scrawny, sinuous, skeletal, skin-and-bone, skinny, sleek, slender, slight, slightly-built, slim, small-boned, spare, spindly, spiny, streamlined, stringy, svelte, sylphlike, thin, trim, underdeveloped, underweight, waif-like, willowy, wiry, wispy

Physical Condition: Good

Pay attention to nuances. Muscle-bound , for example, might indicate that your character has overworked his or her muscles into a state of inflexibility.

A to L active, athletic, beefy, brawny, built, bullish, bullnecked, burly, defined, dense, developed, durable, firm, fit, hale, hard, hardy, healthy, Herculean, hulking, hunky, husky, in shape, limber, lusty

M to R meaty, mesomorphic, mighty, muscle-bound, muscular, nimble, pliant, powerful, powerfully built, resilient, ripped, robust, rugged

S to W shipshape, shredded, sinewy, solid, sound, stalwart [dated], strapping, strong, sturdy, substantial, supple, taut, toned, tough, vigorous, well-built

Physical Condition: Poor

Note: in Great Britain, ropy indicates poor quality or health, whereas in North America, it’s more likely to mean strong or fibrous.

A to F ailing, anorexic, atrophied, battered, beat-up, brittle, broken, bruised, burnt, cadaverous, careworn, crippled, crooked, crumbling, decomposed, decrepit, deformed, degenerating, deteriorating, dilapidated, emaciated, etiolated, feeble, feverish, flimsy, fragile, frail, frangible

G to R gaunt, haggard, half-starved, infirm, insubstantial, lethargic, maimed, malnourished, mangled, neglected, out-of-shape, puny, ramshackle, rickety, ropy, rotting, runty

S to W scalded, sickly, starved, underfed, undernourished, vulnerable, wasted, weak, weedy, withered, worn-out

Look around you. Pick an object. Could you include it as a body shape? A woman might have a chest flatter than your thesaurus, or perhaps your male protagonist resembles your upside-down wastebasket.

B to R barrel-chested, barrelesque, blocky, boobylicious, bootylicious, broad-shouldered, bulbous, cylindrical, ectomorphic, endomorphic, flat, hourglass-shaped, inverted-triangular, limp, mesomorphic, pear-shaped, pumpkinesque, pyramidal, rectangular, rotund, round

S to W serpentine, shapeless, shapely, small-waisted, spherical, spidery, square, thick-waisted, top-heavy, triangular, wasp-waisted

Height: Short

Let’s include that wastebasket again: knee-high to a wastebasket . Scrutinize your surroundings to create fresh phrases.

B to R belly-button-high, bijou, compact, dainty, diminutive, dwarfish, eensy, elfin, gnomish, itsy-bitsy, itty-bitty, knee-high, knee-high to a wastebasket, knee-high to a pygmy, Lilliputian, little, low-slung, midget, mini, miniature, packed-down, peewee, petite, pint-sized, pocket-sized, puny, pygmy, runty

S to W sawed-off, shoulder-high, shrimpy, shriveled, shrunken, small, small in stature, small-scale, stubby, stunted, teeny, teeny-weeny, tiny, undersized, vertically challenged, waist-high, wee

Height: Tall

Most people know that redwoods are tall, ergo, redwood-high . With a bit of acerbic word play, a tall Polish stripper might be referred to as stripper-pole-ific .

B to L big, biggish, colossal, gangling, gargantuan, giant, gigantic, ginormous, Goliath, huge, humongous, immense, jumbo, king-sized, large, leggy, lofty, longish, long-shanked

M to W mammoth, massive, mountain-high, of great stature, rangy, redwood-high, sizable, sky-high, skyscraperesque, statuesque, stripper-pole-ific, towering, whopping

More Adjectives: Flattering

Many words that describe skin also function well as body descriptors.

A to P alluring, awe-inspiring, busty, buxom, carved, chaste, chesty, chiseled, comely [dated], cooperative, curvy, delectable, endless, eye-catching, formidable, graceful, handsome, holy, imposing, majestic, neat, nubile, perfect

S to Y sculpted, seductive, sensuous, sexy , shapely, slinky, stacked, stately, statuesque, stunning, symmetrical, voluptuous, well-endowed, well-proportioned, youthful

More Adjectives: Unflattering

You’ll find additional pejorative terms here. Choose with care.

A to R awkward, corpse-like, foul-smelling, furry, girlie-girl, gnarled, grotesque, hairy, hideous, humpbacked, hunchbacked, hunched, lumpy, malformed, milquetoast, misshapen, monstrous, neckless, pantywaist, pigeon-chested, powerless, revolting, round-shouldered

S to W scarred, shaggy, shoulderless, slack, slouched, soulless, stooped, twisted, unresponsive, unwashed, unwilling, unyielding, wimpy, wizened, wooden, wrinkled

More Adjectives: Other

Is that lifeless figure a woman pretending to be asleep, or is she dead? Is your male protagonist’s body really afire, or is he burning with desire?

Maybe you could write a short story that leads readers astray via adjectives with multiple connotations.

A to H afire, aflame, bare, boyish, bullnecked, coltish, effeminate, expectant, familiar, feminine, girlish, gravid, hairless, headless

I to W inert, inexperienced, inflexible, knocked-up, leathery, lifeless, limp, loose-jointed, masculine, nude, pregnant, primitive, rigid, stiff, unclad, unclothed, undeveloped, weather-beaten

A to Y anemic, ashen, black-and-blue, bronzed, chocolate, coffee, copper, dappled, freckled, golden, grey, jaundiced, pale, pallid, pasty, pink, purple, red, ruddy, sunburnt, swarthy, tanned, tawny, wan, yellow

See the Color/Tone section of 300+ Words to Describe Skin for more color possibilities.

Some of the following are cliché, but they provide seeds for new ideas. A character might be built like:

a bag of doughnuts a Barbie Doll a battleship a boar a bulldog a Cadillac a cannon a centerfold a cheerleader a coiled cobra a fairy a feather pillow a grizzly a gymnast a Ken Doll a linebacker a military action figure a moose an ox a panther a pixie a Porsche the Rock of Gibraltar a refrigerator a shark a stick a straw a tank a thoroughbred

Here are a few more seeds to stimulate your imagination. Compare your character’s physique to:

a blimp a book of countless pages a bottle of fine wine concrete a crime scene an enigma a fairyland a ferret forbidden fruit a fortress a fragrant meadow an ice palace a machine a mannequin a marionette a masterpiece a maze a mystery a nightmare a nunnery a prison a rag doll a riddle a rose, complete with thorns a secret fantasy a sewer a snare a trap unattainable dreams uncharted waters an unreachable star a watermelon a weapon a weasel a wet dream a wonderland a work in progress

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6 thoughts on “ 500+ Ways to Describe Body Build and Physique ”

This is so helpful. I write stories about little guys (small, non-muscular, anamorphic) overpowering the biggest, strongest muscle man. I noticed I use a lot of repeat words and trying to improve. This information is so helpful. Thank you.

I’m glad you find it helpful, Chris.

Good luck with your stories!

Congratulations on your top50 blogger award. Well deserved. Thank you for this list of words, too.

Thanks, Vivienne!

As per usual, I’m appropriating this and sharing it with my FB and Twitter friends. You’re an amazing asset to the writing community. 🙂

Thanks, Jenn!

Writing tips

Writing tips

Words That Describe Body Types

body description writing


This book contains -Words to use instead of said, says, went, etc -Personalities -Characteristics - words to describe movement, looks, body language and more. and a whole lot of other things.

# bodylanguage # descriptivewords # random # writing # writingtips

Writer: Reannah1204

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Agile - Able to move quickly and easily

Ample - Used euphemistically to convey that someone is fat

Angular (Of a person or part of their body) lean and having a prominent bone structure 

Awkward - Not smooth or graceful; ungainly

Barrel-Chested - Having a large rounded chest

Big - Of considerable size, extent, or intensity

Big-Bellied - Having a prominent belly

Bodily - Of or concerning the body

Bony (Of a person or part of the body) so thin that the bones are prominent 

Brawny - Physically strong; muscular

Brisk - Active, fast, and energetic

Broad - Large in area; spacious 

Bulbous - Fat, round, or bulging

Bulging - Swell or protrude to an unnatural or incongruous extent

Busty - (Of a woman) having large breasts

Buxom - (Of a woman) plump, especially with large breasts

Calloused - (Of a part of the body) Having an area of hardened skin

Chubby- Plump and rounded

Chunky- (Of a person) short and sturdy

Colossal - Extremely large

Compact - (Of a person or animal) small, solid, and well-proportioned

Corpulent - (Of a person) fat

Curvy - (Of a woman's figure) shapely and voluptuous

Dainty - (Of a person) delicate and graceful in build or movement

Defined - Make up or establish the character of

Delicate - (Of a person, animal, or plant) susceptible to illness or adverse conditions

Developed - (Of a person or part of the body) having specified physical proportions

Dimpled - Having a dimple or dimples

Distended - Swollen due to pressure from inside; bloated

Drooping - Bend or hang downward limply

Dumpy - (Of a person) short and stout

Dwarfish - Like a dwarf; being especially small or stunted

Elephantine - Of resembling, or characteristic of an elephant or elephants, especially in being large, clumsy, or awkward

Elfin - (With reference to a person) small and delicate, typically with an attractively mischievous or strange charm

Elongated - Unusually long in relation to its width

Emaciated - Abnormally thin or weak, especially because of illness or a lack of food

Fast - Moving or capable of moving at high speed

Firm (Of a person) steadfast and constant

Fit - In good health, especially because of regular physical exercise

- Sexually attractive; good-looking

Flabby- (Of a part of a person's body) soft, loose, and fleshy

Flat-Chested- (Of a woman) having small breasts

Fleshy -(Of a person or part of the body) having a substantial amount of flesh; plump

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72 Appearance Adjectives You Need to Describe People in English

72 Appearance Adjectives You Need to Describe People in English

You’re about to learn 72 must-know appearance adjectives to describe how people look. For more adjectives, check out 59 Positive Personality Adjectives to Describe Your Favourite Friends .

OK. Here’s a picture of two brothers:

Chuckle Brothers

My question is: Can you describe them?

I mean, really describe them, so that I could have a clear image in my head of what they look like — things like body shape, age, hair, etc.?

If you want to do it well, describing people’s appearance in English can be tricky and requires a lot of detail.

So today, let’s look at 72 adjectives to describe appearance in English.

Adjectives for Body Shapes

OK. Let’s start with some adjectives to describe someone’s general body shape.

By the way, we have a few words for body shape: “figure,” “physique” and “build” are the most common ones.

Other Words for “Fat” or “Large”

Overweight This simply means “heavier than is healthy.”

Obese It means very overweight. Sometimes it can be quite dangerous …

Overweight man with hammer

Stout Maybe slightly fat but strong or solid looking. Usually quite short.

Stocky Short with a wide body.

Paunchy You know how some men gain weight?

They don’t just get fat everywhere — just the stomach.

That’s paunchy.

Though we don’t usually say “He’s paunchy.” Go for “He has a paunch.”

Pot-bellied The same as “paunchy.”

Big-boned With a large body structure.

We also use this adjective as a euphemism (a way of saying something negative indirectly).

If you call someone big-boned, it’s usually just another way of saying that they’re fat.

Chubby A little bit fat. Slightly overweight. But only a bit.

Think about cherubs. You know, these guys:

Group of cherubs

Plump The same as “chubby.”

Podgy Also the same as “chubby.”

Why do we have so many words for “chubby?” Maybe we just really like cherubs?

Let’s look at some more cherubs:


Curvy This can be used in two ways.

Sometimes, it describes a woman with a thin waist and wide hips.

And sometimes, it’s used as a euphemism to mean “fat.”

But it’s nicer to say “curvy,” right?

Or better yet, just don’t mention it.

Flabby We usually use this to describe a part of someone’s body, not the person as a whole.

So someone might have flabby arms or a flabby stomach.

It means they have a lot of loose fat (or skin) that kind of shakes and wobbles when they move around.

Other Words for “Thin” or “Small”

Slender Thin, in a pretty or elegant kind of way.

Slim A positive word for “thin.”

You can use this to compliment people:

“Hey, you’re looking slim these days. Have you been working out?”

Lanky Tall and thin. But in an awkward kind of way.

Lanky stick figure

Skinny Very thin, possibly too thin.

Like someone who doesn’t eat enough.

Slight You know those people who are so thin that it looks like they might break into pieces if they fall down? That’s slight.

But be careful: We don’t usually say “She’s slight.” We usually say “She’s got a slight build.”

Petite This is French for “small.”

In English it also means “small,” but we tend to use it to describe short women.

Other Words for “Muscular”

Beefy Someone with a lot of muscles. This is informal and usually used for men.

Try to push him over. I bet you can’t.

Beefy man

Buff In good physical shape. Probably with visible muscle action going on.

Burly Strong, heavy.

Like a warrior.

Broad “Broad” actually means “wide.”

Imagine a wide person — one of those big guys or girls.

Well-built Big. Strong.

Ripped What’s the big cliché of the gym?

It’s the 6-pack, right? You know, when your stomach looks like this:

Man with a 6-pack

This is what I think of when I think of “ripped” — muscular and in good shape.

And happy to show it off, probably.

I think I would.

Wouldn’t you?

Other Body Shape Adjectives

Gangly You know those tall, lanky people who never look comfortable?

They move around looking uncomfortable.

When they sit down, they look uncomfortable and awkward.

They’re gangly.

Stooped Someone who walks around as if they’re walking through a low doorway — but all the time.

The opposite of standing up straight.

Pigeon-toed Standing with your feet facing each other, like this:

Pigeon-toed stick figure

Adjectives for Attractiveness

We have a lot of positive words for attractiveness. But look! Only three negative ones.

I think that says a lot of good things about humans.

Other Words for Beautiful

Attractive Nice to look at.

You’d happily look at this person for hours if it wasn’t socially unacceptable.

Handsome It’s like beautiful but usually for men.

More masculine and manly. Grrr.

Pretty Not as strong as beautiful, but still positive. Usually used for women (and my cat).

Cute cat under a blanket

Stunning Extremely attractive. Even stronger than “beautiful.”

Gorgeous A more informal way of saying “beautiful” or “handsome.”

Good-looking Er… he (or she) looks … good.

Cute We actually often use this for things like kittens.

Kittens are weird — they make us change our voice and say stupid things like “You’re a kitty, aren’t you? What are you? You’re a kitty!”

That’s because kittens are cute.

But we can also use “cute” to mean attractive.

Hot More or less the same as “sexy.”

Other Words for Ugly

Rough This is actually quite rude, so be careful with this one.

But it’s there. And it’s used.

It means “very ugly.”

Also, it’s very British.

Plain This is another euphemism.

We use it when we want to say that someone has nothing about them that’s attractive.

They’re not ugly. Just … boring … plain … even forgettable.

Adjectives for Hair

One of the things that really makes us look different from each other is that weird stuff that grows on the top of our heads: our hair!

I mean, really think about it. Isn’t it strange that we have it?

Adjectives for Hair Type

Stick figure with curly hair

Remember — all of these are used to describe hair, not people.

So say, “He’s got curly hair.”

Not “ He’s curly .” That just sounds very weird.

Adjectives for Hair Length

Bald No hair at all.

It’s all gone.

You’re getting old, mate.

Use this with the person as the subject:

“You’re bald , man! Deal with it!”

Closely-cropped Very short hair.

So short that you almost look bald.

“He’s got closely-cropped hair. It doesn’t suit him at all.”

Shaved No hair at all.

But this time by choice. Because you shaved it off.

We use this with “have” or “have got”:

“Since he joined the army, he’s had a shaved head.”

Balding Not bald. But you will be soon!

Like with “bald,” the person is the subject here: “He’s balding.”

Shoulder-length Hair down to your shoulders.

We can also have waist-length hair and even knee-length hair.

This one is used with “have” or “have got,” too:

“When I was a kid, I had knee-length hair. I kept falling on it. Very annoying.”

Adjectives for Hair Styles

Dreaded In a lot of languages, the word for this is “rasta.” Think of Bob Marley.  Just so you know, it’s more common to use the noun:

“She’s got dreads .”

Afro Very thick, very curly hair in a rounded shape.

Very popular in the 1970s, but I’ve noticed it’s becoming popular again.

People with afros

Gelled When you add gel to your hair.

You know, that sticky stuff that you can use to style your hair.

Slicked-back When you use gel or oil to comb your hair back.

Parted When you’ve divided the hair into two parts. You can have a centre parting or a side parting (or “part” in U.S. English).

Spiky When your hair is gelled up into spikes. Easy to draw. So I did:

Stick figure with spiky hair

Adjectives for Hair Colour

Dyed (red, green, etc.) Maybe you don’t like your hair colour?

Well, no problem — go out, buy some dye and dye your hair.

You can have dyed green hair, dyed red hair or just dyed black hair.

And why not?

Bleached Or maybe you want something brighter?

Bleach your hair!

This is when you use peroxide to lighten it.

Maybe you’ll end up looking like Courtney Love. Maybe not:

Courtney Love with bleached hair

Highlighted Perhaps you don’t want to bleach all of it?

Maybe you just want some of it bleached — in lines (or “streaks”).

Then get it highlighted.

Greying We have to face the truth!

Sooner or later our hair goes grey.

I’m happy with that.

But that bit in the middle? When it’s half grey, half not grey?

That’s a bit annoying. That’s greying hair.

Ginger “Ginger” is a way of describing people with naturally orange (“red”) hair.

Strawberry blonde Light red.

But usually a euphemism for ginger.

Mousy brown A sort of brown, but a sort of pale brown. Like this:

Woman with mousey brown hair

Adjectives for Hair Condition

Greasy You know when someone hasn’t washed their hair for a long time?

You run your fingers through it, and you need to wash your hands immediately.

Eugh. Greasy.

Shiny Hair that reflects lots of light.

You know those unrealistically shiny people with unrealistically shiny teeth and unrealistically shiny hair on shampoo adverts? That.

Adjectives for Age

We can’t deny it. We’re all getting older.

Thirtyish About thirty. You can do the same with other ages: “sixtyish,” “sixteenish.” In fact, while we’re here, you can do this with times, too: “Let’s meet at Wimbledon at ten-ish.”

Young You know this, right? But when do you stop being young? This is quite subjective I guess. My answer is NEVER!

Youngish This is a great way to describe someone who’s sort of young, but maybe hitting middle age. Hard to tell. Youngish!

Middle-aged It surprises me how different everyone’s answers are to this. Personally, I think it’s 40. From 40, you’re middle-aged. There you go — I’ve just decided for everyone.

Old But when does middle age end and “old” begin? I don’t know. You’ll have to ask someone older than me.

Elderly It’s not very polite to describe people as “old.” So we invented this nice, polite, respectful word.

In his early 40s OK. This is a neat trick to describe people’s ages when you don’t know exactly how old they are. There’s a simple formula for this:

in his/her early/mid/late teens/20s/30s etc.

“Jerry? Oh, he’s in his mid-sixties .”

“You know that guy in the office in his early twenties ? He just quit.”

“She’s pregnant? I thought she was in her fifties !”

Other Appearance Adjectives

There are a few adjectives to describe appearance that don’t really fit into any category, but I couldn’t just leave them out as they’re pretty useful.

Here they are!

Spotty You know those red spots many unfortunate teenagers get on their face? Technically the condition is called acne, but we usually just say “spots.” I was one of those unfortunate teenagers.

Clean-shaven Without a beard. But for a guy, not a woman.

Pierced We usually use this word to describe someone who has a noticeably large number of piercings.

Tattooed Someone with a lot of tattoos.

Hairy Lots of hair! Everywhere! Even on the back and the back of the hands!

Hooray! 72 adjectives to describe appearance!

So let’s have fun with these.

Think about your best friend.

Done that? Good. Now tell me — what does (s)he look like?

Answers in the comments! Best description gets a free virtual cake.

Did you like this post? Then be awesome and share by clicking the blue button below.

45 thoughts on “ 72 Appearance Adjectives You Need to Describe People in English ”

Learning while having fun – thanks a bunch.

I’m glad you found it fun and even happier you’re learning! Keep it up!

loved it and specially the way you have given examples. God bless you

Great. I thought it was helpful. Fantastic examples

Thanks indeed bra

Great source!

Very helpful (^ω^) Thank you so much!

Also, that is one of the coolest emojis I’ve seen. Nice one!

For the humor and the added knowledge, you deserve at least a thank you. This is awesome.

Thanks so much Annie! Much appreciated! 🙂

I love the pictures and I really enjoyed reading it. If I hadn’t read this, I wouldn’t even know about mixed conditionals. Thank you so much! I wish I had got an English teacher like you when I was a student.

That’s one of the nicest things someone could say to me. Thanks!

And keep up the good work! 🙂

Great visuals and very helpful, thank you! Keep doing more of the same!

Thanks Sarah. Much appreciated! 🙂

Best of the online. Please add more

Gabriel, thanks so much for making things clear in such an amusing way)) And, we had a discussion with colleagues yesterday about the meaning of the question “How does he look?” Normally the question to ask about anybody’s appearance is “What does he/she look like?”. As far as I understand “How does he look?” is more about a persons condition – emotional (upset, tired, sad etc) or health condition, is it right? Can it also be asked about appearance? So, does the “How does he look?” question sound natural and what exactly does it mean?

This is a great question, Elena.

I think the difference between “How does he look?” and “What does he look like” is so subtle that most people wouldn’t feel it was weird if you used “How does he look?” to mean “What does he look like?”

Having said that, I’d agree that “How does he look?” is more likely to elicit an adjective rather than a description. “He looks great!” So I’d tentatively agree that “What does he look like?” is more suitable to get a description (“He’s got a huge afro and massive sideburns.”)

Hope that helps!

And thanks for reading — I’m really glad that you find it useful … and funny. 🙂

Thank you for your answer, Gabriel!

I am making an art piece, and I needed a ton of negative thoughts and comments, thanks for the help, and good adjectives.

Glad to help!

Thanks for the positive feedback! 🙂

This was really helpful and at the same time witty. Thank you so much, Gabriel.

Thanks Anie!

I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

It was very useful for me,thanku

I couldn’t stop reading it till the end. It’s so funny.

they are useful for me thanks alot

Please how do we call a person whose weight is between Fat and slim?

Hi Theophi,

Good question.

I guess if we needed to say it, then we might say something like “average build.”

Thanks for commenting! 🙂

Great resource! easy to grasp! good illustrations!! Clark, I sort of lost my wit. Do you have any clues as to how to get my wits back? Thanks!!

Ha ha! You lost your wit?

I guess it depends on what you mean by “wit.”

If you’ve lost your sense of humour, I recommend a strong dose of Alan Partridge, Monty Python or Smack the Pony.

If you’ve lost your sense of awareness, then I recommend a good book.

Try one of these:


Good luck and thanks for the positive feedback!

Extremely helpful!!Thanks a lot..

wow.. thanks so much! this is what I’ve been looking for!

very helpful thankks <3

It’s really a fun loving & informative . I get a lot of information, now I could easily tell about the appearance of anyone using such words . Thanks alot

I’m a native English speaker but this article was still fascinating….great job!

I really found this interesting and couldn’t stop reading. Thank you so much for making this clear to me. Those illustrations were funny.?

What a “hoot”! You made this so much fun–and reminded me I gotta own my hair loss.

At 4:30am. Thanks for making my night.

Many thanks!

great help for my writing, thanks Gabriel

Always happy to help, Andres. 🙂

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30+ Words to Describe Different Body Shapes and Sizes

By: Author Hiuyan Lam

Posted on Published: June 21, 2021

Categories Etiquette & advice

30+ Words to Describe Different Body Shapes and Sizes

When describing characters, it isn’t enough to call them “tall” or “short”, or even “fat” or “slim”. It requires specific words to describe body shape to paint an image of the character in your readers’ heads.

Surely the character’s body shape is more than just a generalized term. You may even have two “fat” characters, but using the same words to describe them wouldn’t do much justice when one is stumpy, and the other is tall and paunchy.

Once you have conjured up the character in your head, you need to pay close attention to these words to describe their body shape and pick the most suitable ones:

7 words to describe a muscular/athletic body shape

  Not all muscular/athletic body types are the same. Sure, they all fall into the same category, but using more specific words to describe body shape paints an even clearer image of what you envision a character to be.   Here are 7 words to describe body shape for muscular/athletic characters:  

woman in black sleeveless running wearing armband

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30 of the Best Words to Describe a Good Athlete

7 words to describe a sexy body

  There are different understandings of what it means to be sexy, so you have to be more specific when writing about this body type.   For some, sexy means a person with large breasts and buttocks, while others find smaller features more attractive.   Take a look at these words to describe body shape for sexy characters, then take your pick:  

topless woman lying on bed with flowers

7 words to describe a fat body shape

  Now, let’s move on to characters one can generalize as “fat”.   Here are 8 words to describe body shape for the different versions of fat:  

woman in black shirt and blue denim standing

20+ of the Nicest and Most Positive Words to Describe Elderly

man in yellow shirt and brown pants using smartphone

8 slim body shapes

  Just as there are different versions of a fat body, there are different versions of slim body shapes. Use any of these words to describe body shapes of slim characters to paint a more accurate picture:  

gray scale photo of man reaching to his back

25+ of the Best Words to Describe Fireworks in Writing

man wearing shorts walking hunchback

5 words to describe body shape when talking about body sizes

  You may also use words to describe body shape based on a character’s size. This will help to put things into perspective for your readers and makes your choice of words more effective.   Here are 5 words to describe body shape when talking about the character’s size:  

woman wearing black underwear sitting on brown sand

  And there you have it! 30+ of the best words to describe body shape for virtually any character you can think of.   Now, you can work on developing other elements of your story to complete a spectacular piece. Good luck!  

boho bedroom with laptop on breakfast tray on bed


tell your stories, love your life

Master List of Physical Description for Writers

man with mustache and slight beard | MASTER LIST OF PHYSICAL DESCRIPTIONS #master lists for writers free ebook #master lists for writers bryn donovan pdf #character description #how to describe a character's appearance #physical adjectives #character physical description generator #distinguishing features for characters #describing facial features

Physical description, when done well, helps the readers see characters in their minds. But sometimes when you’re in the middle of writing, it can be hard to think of physical adjectives and distinguishing features for characters. I find that describing facial features can be especially tricky!


That’s why I created this long list of physical characteristics. It’s kind of like a character description generator, and it’ll help you when you’re trying to think of how to describe a character’s appearance.

Young woman with pensive expression and long brown hair. "Master List of Physical Descriptions for Writers - pin or bookmark for future reference!"

Eyes – General

For all the words about describing facial features, I’m focusing more on physical descriptions rather than emotional expressions, though there’s a little crossover! You can also check out my long list of facial expressions.


fringed with long lashes

with sweeping eyelashes

with thick eyelashes

By the way, this post on how to describe (and not describe) the eyes of an Asian character is really great. Check it out.

Eyes – Color

Brown is the most common eye color by far. Green is quite rare.

chocolate brown

cocoa brown

coffee brown

sienna brown

cornflower blue

Arctic blue

glacial blue

crystal blue

electric blue

slate blue / slate gray

storm blue / storm gray

silver / silver gray

concrete gray

gunmetal gray

Skin – Color

Josh Roby made a great chart of skin tones and descriptor words, and I got a lot of these words from him. You can get that here .

The quote from N.K. Jemisin interested me: “I get really tired of seeing African-descended characters described in terms of the goods that drove, and still drive, the slave trade—coffee, chocolate, brown sugar. There’s some weird psychosocial baggage attached to that.”

cream / creamy

rose / rosy

Skin – General

Some of these are better for the face, and some are better for other parts of the body.



with large pores


Face – Structure


high forehead

broad forehead

prominent brow ridge

protruding brow bone

sharp cheekbones

high cheekbones

angular cheekbones

hollow cheeks

jutting chin

pointed chin

receding chin

double chin

dimple in chin

visible Adam’s apple

People don’t write much about noses, but they can be distinguishing features for characters!

Cupid’s bow

straight teeth

gap between teeth

gleaming white teeth

Facial Hair (or lack thereof)



mutton-chop sideburns

a few days’ growth of beard

five o’ clock shadow

Hair – General

I threw a few hairstyles in here, though not many.


neatly combed

slicked down / slicked back

buzzed / buzz cut

widow’s peak

Hair – Color

There are some repeats here from the eye color section!

salt and pepper

charcoal gray

brown sugar

tawny brown

toffee brown


strawberry blonde


sandy blond


Body Type – General

average height


heavy / heavy-set



leggy / long-legged


sloping shoulders

stubby fingers

long fingers

ragged nails

grimy fingernails


This list and many more are in my book Master Lists for Writers: Thesauruses, Plot Ideas, Character Traits, Names, and More . Check it out if you’re interested!

Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan #master lists for writers free pdf #master lists for writers free ebook #master lists for writers free kindle

And if you don’t want to miss future writing posts, follow the blog, if you aren’t already — there’s a place to sign up on the lefthand side of the blog. Thanks for stopping by, and happy writing!

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126 thoughts on “ master list of physical description for writers ”.

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Thanks, Bryn! This list has sparked a spark in my brain. I haven’t seen one of those for a while. I was getting worried I’d lost my flint!

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I’m so glad you like it!

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I love this, do you mind if we share on our blog WritersLife.org ?

Thanks for the positive feedback! You can’t reproduce it on your blog, but you can share an excerpt of 200 words or less plus a link to my site.

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As a new novel writer all I can say is thank very much for sharing with us this wonderful list.

Ah you’re welcome! Thanks for visiting!

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This is amazing! Thank you very much!

Thanks for the kind words–glad it seems helpful!

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Reblogged this on looselyjournalying.

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Reblogged this on Of Fancy & Creativity .

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Aw thank you for this it helped so much! I’m 15 and I’m trying to write a novel and this was sooooo helpful so thank you a billion 🙂 Best wishes.

Ah you’re welcome! Thanks for stopping by. Good for you for working on a novel, and good luck–I bet it will go great!

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Hi, Bryn Thank you for doing these lists. They helped me a lot. Can you make a list on how to describe emotions like sadness or anger.

It’s funny you should ask 🙂 There’s a list like that in my book MASTER LISTS FOR WRITERS coming out this fall! I haven’t officially announced it yet, but hey 🙂

You can get a free copy when it comes out if you agree to give it an honest review. SIgn up for my newsletter if you’re interested!

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Reblogged this on Kalynn Bayron and commented: Yes! This is great!

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Was just looking for this type of lists.Great work.

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This is so helpful.

I love your blog, btw. Your posts are informative and/or inspirational.

Are you on any social medial where I can follow you?

Oh, thank you so much! I just checked out your blog — I love the dream casting post! http://sbhadleywilson.com/blog/pull-ideal-cast-2/

I’m @BrynDonovan on Twitter, just followed you!

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VERY helpful. I need to get basic descriptions of people done and out of the way to move on with plot. This quickens any details that might have taken me a long time to think through, or strain a sentence. Yuck. I know my females characters would pay attention to lots of physical details. not so with the males. Thanks!

Oh, so glad it’s helpful! That’s always what I’m trying to do with my lists — speed things up. I hate getting stuck on a detail and losing my momentum 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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godsent list! Bryn, I wish you more brains.

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Reblogged this on Jessica Louis and commented: This list is beyond helpful. Who knew there were so many eye colors!?

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Thanks Bryn your list was amazing. I’m an aspiring writer and it really helped me a lot. When I can I’m going to get a copy of your book. I think it would help me become a better writer. My genre of choice is erotic, but it is so hard to get out there, but I’m hopeful one day I will. It’s what I love to do and I’m going to keep trying.

Hi Beth! Thank you so much for the kind words. If you do get the book, I hope you like it! And good luck on writing erotica — I’m doing a “WIP Wednesday” this Wednesday where you can share a bit of your work in progress, if you like 🙂

That would be great. I have some short stories publish on a site called Literotica. I have some editing issues that I’m trying to work out, nothing a few classes wouldn’t help. How do I share my work.

I am so sorry! I missed this comment before. The next WIP Wednesday on the blog is Dec. 2… if you’re following the blog you’ll see the post! (The follow button is on the righthand side of this page.) Hope your writing’s going well 🙂

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Reblogged this on PRINCE CHARMING ISN'T HERE and commented: what an amazing list! I always have a hard time describing features! words sometimes fail me!

i loved this list! thank you so much for making it! 🙂

So glad it was helpful!

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Thank you! This is so helpful to have for reference. Occasionally I’ll have a particular word in mind and can’t think of it, and I can usually pop over here and find it right away!

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I absolutely love your master lists. They have helped me so much in diversifying the words I use when I’m writing. 🙂

Ohhh thank you! That is so great to hear. 🙂 Hope your writing projects are going great!

Thank you, and they are. I’m just about to publish a works I’ve been working on for the past couple of months, which is so exciting. XD Hope all your writing projects are going great as well. 🙂

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What a wonderful and thorough list Bryn. Thanks for sharing it! I will at some point ‘link back’ to this fabulous article (I’ll let you know when I do.) I’m new to your site, but will certainly be back for more! I’m fascinated to learn that you’re also a home-grown KC girl. =0) Although, I remarried and moved to California 9 years ago, KC still tugs my heart-strings.

Hey, so glad you like it! Yeah, Kansas City is a special place. Come visit anytime 🙂 And thanks for visiting my blog! — I LOVE your username, by the way. Made me smile.

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thanks for following my blog!

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Reblogged this on A Bundle of Cute.

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Reblogged this on A Blissful Garden and commented: I find this very important!

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Reblogged this on Insideamoronsbrain and commented: Wow!!

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Thanks for sharing this list! It is amazing and so helpful !

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I’m going to save this as a favorite. You always provide great information Bryn. Continue with your success.

Oh, thank you so much, Christopher! I really appreciate the kind words. So glad you like this!

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This list is so complete! I haven’t worked on fiction in a long while, but lately I’ve been wanting to get back into it. I know this is going to be a great help when i sit down to create my characters!

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This is absolutely perfect for aspiring writers so that we don’t have to use Microsoft Word synonyms that tend to nit have what we’re searching for. Your introductory paragraph about readers falling in love with characters’ personalities and not theit physical attributes was spot on. Thank you thank you, thank you!

Chunny! Thank you so very much for the kind words. I’m so glad you found it helpful!!

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This is amazing! Thank you! I hope it’s alright if I use this as a reference in a blog post for character development.

Hi Jacquelyn! So glad you like it. That’s fine, just please link to the post!

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I read this over and over, thank you for creating this! Can I just ask, when thinking of clothing and how to describe it, what are some things you would put? (I’m making a book draft and have never needed clothing described to me as much as now)

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Thank you! It’s so important that we don’t reuse the same words too often, so this will help a lot with that problem.

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Thanks for helping me. It really made a big difference of helping me come up with something.

Hi Joseph! Sorry for the delayed reply! I’m so glad you liked it. Thanks for the kind words!

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Your book “Master Lists for Writers” has helped me incredibly. I’ve always wanted to be a romance writer but didn’t have the nerve until now. I am currently working on a short story about a college girl who is assaulted by a classmate. It was based on a dream I had a few nights ago. I haven’t developed how she gets her revenge on him. I know the story line seems dark but the dream stuck with me so much, I felt the urge to turn it into a story. Thank you again for your awesome book. What a great resource

Rhonda! Thank you so much for the kind words. I am so happy that the book is helpful, and even gladder that you’re going for it and writing! Sending you best wishes on your story!

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Great advice in this post, Bryn! Thank you.

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Used this for school! It was really helpful!

Oh yay! So glad it was helpful!

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This is a great list! So comprehensive, and just what I was looking for. I struggle with physical descriptions of people and have a tendency to write the same kins of attributes. So this list is fab!

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This is great!

keep up the good work

Hey thanks 🙂

This is so helpful!!!!!

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Tiptoeing out there to publish my first book (I’ve been writing a long time). This post helped so much. Thanks!

oh my gosh, thank you! You have put a lot of effort in this list. I def appreciate it 🙂

Thank you I´m always using this when I´m creating new characters.

Incredibly helpful! Thanks a lot :3

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Thank you for sharing this!

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More extensive than my general list. My wizened goatee and elder Fu Manchu thank you for sharing your time and devotion to the craft.

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Very useful for ready reference. Thank you very much.

Thanks, Mohan! So glad you liked it!

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I’ve been writing for a while, mostly for fun, but this was the one thing I could never get down, but this list is great! all around solid, and incredibly useful, I see myself using it every time I need to make a new character, good job!

You’re a legend! This is fantastic, thank you!

Hahaha, thanks for the kind words! 🙂 Glad it’s helpful!

I am following your prompts and valuable advice for writing a fantasy teen fiction novel. I think you are amazing. You might not know it but I was able to clear hundreds of my doubts through your help. Please keep up the good work and providing your valuable support to all of us upcoming writers.

Hey, thank you so much for the kind words—you made my day! It’s wonderful to hear that you’re working on YA fantasy. I’m so glad I could help, and I wish you every success!

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I honestly would not recommend this as good writing advice. The focus is too much on describing someone’s physical features using analogies for food. That is not a good thing, it becomes trite and overdone. If used sparsely it’s okay but almost every word in this list is food related.

Hi, Larissa! Thanks for taking your valuable time to share your opinion.

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You have done a great job preparing this Master List. Those who think such precise words for describing someone hurt their sensibilities, move on to another URL. I appreciate every bit of your effort.

Hi, Pradeep! I am so glad you like the list. Thanks so much for commenting!

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Bryn, I love your master list book and use it all the time!

Ohh, thank you so much! I’m so glad it’s helpful!

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This is a godsend. I owe you my soul.

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I work 20 hours per day, (regular business and writing the memoir). Just ordered the Master List–seems like having my own research assistant. I may be able to get 5 hours sleep now. Thanks

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No jaw descriptions? ;(

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You saved my day with your wonderful, descriptive words! Now I’ve found the perfect features for my handsome male character. Thank you!

That is a lot of hours for books but I guess if you keep pushing it will happen.

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Hi Bryn, thanks so much for this information! I always appreciate your lists because I like comprehensive material all in one location as a reference (then if I decide to break the rules, at least I know what the rules are “supposed to be” first!). Have you considered making comprehensive lists of creative writing genre conventions (tropes, archetypes, settings, devices, etc.)?

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Hello, and thank you for the valuable and useful information. I agree with Eleanore regarding the list of genre conventions. I’m more than pleased I found you website.

' src=

Thank u so much ❤️ that was so helpful

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body description writing

The Writing Cooperative

Alexis Furr

Apr 26, 2020


How to Write Better Character Physical Descriptions

Bring images to life.

One of the toughest parts of writing descriptions in a story for many people is writing physical descriptions of their characters. Maybe you get stuck on “He had brown hair and blue eyes” and never get much farther than that. How can you improve your skills? Studying why you need these descriptions and how to add them can get you started in the right direction.

First considerations

Don’t delay.

If there’s one rule about writing physical descriptions is that you should start off with them. People like to know what the characters they’re reading about look like and will immediately start forming ideas in their mind whether you provide them with a visualization or not. A good way to jar someone out of a story is to suddenly drop that your character has green skin for no reason halfway through the story. If a physical descriptor does change, make it as part of a plot point that is spelled out.

Write all at once vs. scatter throughout

Although you need to get your descriptors out early in your manuscript, you don’t need to put them all in the first paragraph, or even write them all at the same time. Often it makes sense to offer a couple of descriptions at first, and then add more depth later on. Or you may want to work in your details more organically. Do what makes sense to you.

Do you need them for that character?

One consideration is whether you even need a description for a character. Not every character will need a description. Main characters will need details, but with a one time side character it may not be necessary to go into much, if any, description. Consider the importance of the character and how much the details add to the story.

Choose your depth

As an added point to the above, you will want to consider how in depth you want to get with your characters. Less important characters may not need as much detail. In some stories, especially short stories, you may not want to go into deep details. Or maybe you’d rather just let the reader fill in what they think the character looks like in their head. Take a few minutes to consider what your aim is ahead of time.

Use for characterization

Although readers enjoy knowing what characters look like, writing out descriptions is not there just for that one purpose. Many of the details should add something more to the character. In Harry Potter, his green eyes were a tie to his mother and not merely a descriptor of the color. A character that tugs her braid constantly hints at a character that is nervous or easily frustrated. A character who wears their hair in a bun paints a very different picture than one that wears their hair down and never brushes it.

Don’t just add fancy or extra words

While you’re writing those characterizing details, be succinct. Don’t just use flowery language to add to your word count. Make sure that your words really paint a picture and tell the reader something about the character without being unnecessarily fancy.

Don’t describe everything, just what is important to the character

You don’t have to describe every single detail. This point goes back to what’s important. Does that scar on the back of your main character’s hand point to a fear of cats that will be important to the story, does it otherwise add flavor, or can it be cut altogether?

Don’t forget your details

It’s easy to include things like a character having a scar that you meant to factor into the story or even a limp and have it magically vanish halfway through. Make sure that you take notes reference them so that you don’t drop these details. If you have an idea for something new as you go, make sure you go back and add it earlier on in the story to keep continuity.

Get help from your beta readers

At the end, make physical details one of the bullet points that one or more of your beta readers addresses. Make sure they can form an image of your characters in their minds. Determine what they think you’re missing or what you can cut. Do your details add to the story or not? Are there any details that get dropped part way through?

Getting ideas for descriptions

Look around you.

The world is full of people around you from family and friends to strangers. A good exercise is to take a notebook and go people watching. Describe people who walk by. Focus on details ranging from faces to their mannerisms to their clothing. You may want to break it down by working on one attribute at a time.

Search for pictures

People watching is good for writing quick descriptions. For practice on more in depth descriptions, find photos on the internet. You can find everything from models to every day people. Choose a wide variety of photos and describe each one as best you can. Then expand your skills further by imagining changing one or two features for each person and writing those down.

Practice writing descriptions from memory

Once you’ve practiced writing descriptions from watching people and looking at photos, set some time aside to practice writing from memory. You can start by looking at a photo for a few minutes then setting it aside before writing down the details. Afterwards, move on to writing descriptions from photos you looked at a few days before. Try not to memorize what you wrote previously, but use different terms.

Search for terms

If you find yourself stuck on what words to describe, a quick internet search will bring up lists of words for just about any description you’re looking for. Print some of these out or otherwise keep them handy to help expand your vocabulary. Just don’t get carried away with overly elaborate descriptions.

How to use physical descriptions Flavor

A basic reason for descriptions is that readers like to know what characters look like. They want to be able to visualize as they’re going along. Each reader has a different preference for how much complex or basic of details they’re looking for so there is no one answer, but as far as importance this should be at the bottom of the list of reasons to write down a detail.

Use descriptions to suggest character backgrounds

There are other ways to use descriptions than just what the character looks like. Details can also be used to suggest a character’s background. A character that wears short hair and is very muscular may suggest a character who has a military or police background of some sort. A woman carrying a book and wearing a bun may be a librarian. Try not to fall too deep into cliches, but there are some things that are going to be fairly universal. When they fall outside the norms (the military man is overweight), they should be outlined for plot reasons.

Use descriptions for plot

Falling under the point above, use your descriptions for plot. This goes whether they are a hint for the future (Harry’s scar in Harry Potter) or whether they’re obtained as a new change later on (Kovu getting a scar in the same place as Scar in The Lion King 2, connecting the two of them). Make those physical features work for you.

Getting to descriptions

Who is describing them.

To start with, you need to decide who is describing the character in question. The relationship to the character will determine how that character is described. A character seen through the eyes of a loved one will be seen very differently than when they’re seen through the eyes of themselves or their enemy. Should the reader even trust the person doing the describing? Everyone has their biases. Keep these in mind when you’re writing.

Adjectives, similes, and metaphors can strengthen

Writing that your character has ‘brown hair’ is boring. You need to go deeper than this. Writing that they have ‘honey blonde hair’ is getting better. Writing that they have hair that is ‘the color of honey dripping under the sun’ gives the reader a more detailed picture. Use deeper descriptions with adjectives, similes, and metaphors to strengthen your writing and make it more vivid for your reading, but don’t get carried away.

Avoid cliches

On the other hand, don’t get sucked into the lazy habit of cliches. “Baby blue” eyes is cliched and boring. “The blue of the ocean under the setting sun” is more descriptive and less common. Again, don’t go overboard in the other direction, but try avoiding the most common descriptions that are used all the time.

What to include

Describing the body.

Character body parts are the most obvious parts of the physical description. Some of the most common descriptions are references to hair, eyes, and height, but there are so many other things that can be included. A non-exhaustive list includes the character’s complexion, body posture (do they hunch over, stand tall?), build (tall and thick, short and thin), more specific facial features (nose, cheeks, eyebrows), and distinguishing marks (tattoos, birthmarks, scars, rashes, etc., ). Branch out and consider what distinguishing body characteristic will be important to the character. If you’re ever stuck for what could work for a character, go fishing on the internet and see if you can find a picture that might fit an idea for your character and write up a physical description based on that picture with some tweaks. You don’t have to include everything in your story, but you’ll have your notes and a picture as a reference in case you need them.

Describing actions

Besides their body description, actions can also be a part of a character’s physical description. How a character holds themselves can tell a lot about a character. A man who stands tall and straight is a very different character than one that hunches over. Whether a character looks people in the eyes can also tell you something about the character. A man that paces a lot will give the reader other suggestions as to his character. Remember, your character isn’t static. Imagine them in an important situation when you write up their description.

Describing clothing

Describing clothing may or may not be very important in your story. Unless you specify otherwise, people will assume that your characters are dressed and you may not have to spend much time on this part of the details. Often it’s a good idea to give a quick outline what a character wears in the beginning as a character who wears jeans is a very different one than one that wears a full suit every day, but you don’t need to tell the reader every scene what your characters are wearing. Save your clothing descriptions for when it adds to the story. And if you’re ever stuck, refer to the internet for ideas just like for body descriptions.

Physical descriptions are integral to the writing process, but can be hard to pull off. Knowing more about why descriptions are necessary and how to write them can help you improve this skill.

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Alexis Furr

I’m an author of numerous fantasy and erotica books and want to share my love of writing with others.

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10 Tips for Writing Physical Descriptions of Your Characters

As a kid, I devoured girly series books like Sweet Valley and Baby-sitter’s Club. In Sweet Valley High, the twin protagonists were always described as having blond hair, “Pacific blue eyes,” and “perfect size six figures.” Unfortunately, I often find myself describing my own fictional characters as if I’m ghost-writing for a Young Adult series. I give height, hair color, eye color, and body shape. But these standard descriptions can sound generic, and they don’t really help the reader picture your characters.

So how can you best describe your characters’ physical features? Learn from others. Here are a few tips, along with examples from some of my favorite writers.

1. You don’t always have to be specific.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby , the reader never really learns the color of Daisy’s hair or eyes, but does it matter? We can still picture her in our minds: “Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth.”

2. Use figurative language.

“I … easily spotted her blond hair like a white flame… The edge of her white kimono flapped open in the wind and I could see her breast, low and full. Her beauty was like the edge of a very sharp knife.” - White Oleander by Janet Fitch

3. Describe facial expressions.

“Besides the neutral expression that she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reverse, that she used for all her human dealings. Her forward expression was steady and driving like the advance of a heavy truck. Her eyes never swerved to left or right but turned as the story turned as if they followed a yellow line down the center of it.” -“Good Country People” by Flannery O’Conner

4. Make the descriptions match the tone.

In a funny or sardonic piece, for example, your descriptions can be the same: “He was a funny-looking child who became a funny-looking youth—tall and weak, and shaped like a bottle of Coca-Cola.” - Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

5. Scatter physical descriptions throughout the prose.

You don’t have to give all your description of a character when he or she first arrives on the scene. Instead, scatter brief descriptions throughout multiple scenes. No doubt many of your favorite writers do this.

6. Describe actions that reveal physical characteristics.

“As we’d been talking, she’d pulled [her hair] into a high, loose bun with shorter pieces of hair falling around her face.” - Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

7. A first person narrator can give biased opinions about appearances.

“I was, and still am, despite mes malheurs , an exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy but all the more seductive cast of demeanor.” - Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

8. Describe clothing and accessories.

“Today Charis is wearing a sagging mauve cotton jersy dress, with a fuzzy grey cardigan over top and an orange-and-aqua scarf with a design of meadow flowers draped around her neck. Her long straight hair is grey-blonde and parted in the middle; she has her reading glasses stuck up on top of her head.” - The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

9. Describe the way characters move or carry themselves.

“She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet.” - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

10. Remember that a little description can go a long way.

This might be the most important tip of all. You don’t have to describe a character from head to toe and constantly review what he or she looks like. Just an introductory description and a few well-placed clues throughout the prose will be enough to help readers form and keep a picture in their minds: “She was a fat girl. She was fat all over and she huffed when she breathed.” - “Kindling” by Raymond Carver.

Eva Langston


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Describing body types.

girlwhowouldbeanauthor :

Now, one thing a lot of young writers I see forget (especially those who write fanfiction) is that everyone does not have the same body type. One reason I noticed this was because it was a huge writing vice of mine; I got used to everyone already knowing basically what the characters looked like when I wrote fanfiction, so I got lazy in describing people. So, body type is important, I think, for realism in writing. Because unlike on some cartoon show, people do not fit one mold. There’s a gazillion types out there, all valid and pretty in their own way. It contributes to the idea that there is only one good body type for either gender when you either describe everyone similarly (unless it’s some sort of dystopian future, and they’re clones or modified on purpose) or give no description of body type at all. You don’t need to go overboard and describe every person from their chest size to their head shape to whether they have cankles. But, a general idea might help your reader visualize, and yet not force an image on them too much. For instance, ‘Carolina was top heavy, to the point that it looked like she would tip over if she leaned forward too far,’ or ‘Jace had a practically concave chest, and skinny, bony arms. He looked like someone whose bones had tried to outgrow his skin.’ Of course, you can take this any which way; just point out the most obvious parts of your character’s body type (heart-shaped face? wide hips? stocky build?) and go from there. It’s usually good to have some idea of what your character looks like beyond colors and height. So, go wild!

body description writing

body description writing


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