If you would, please read the following:
The woman in red approached the dancing couple and delivered a slap to her husband that almost rattled the high crystal chandeliers.
~ and ~
The short, buxom woman walked into the room. She had curly blonde hair, a plump face and cold eyes that sparkled like diamonds. Her dress was red and matched her ruby heels. She approached the dancing couple and delivered a slap to her husband that almost rattled the high crystal chandeliers.
So…what do we have with both of these samples?
It’s okay. You can say it: Totally boring description (with a cliché thrown in, too).
Describing a character’s appearance is a tightrope act. Too little, and they walk the wire from one end to the other, nebulous and unremarkable, forgotten the moment they step to safety. Too much, and they become a giant, colorful blob trapped on the line, unable to move forward. Pace is stalled, and nothing is left to the reader’s imagination because it’s all right there in the spotlight.
Why do the above excerpts not work? In addition to them having too little or too much description, what’s shown isn’t compelling. It doesn’t pull us in, help to shape the character, or give us clues as to who this woman in red is or what makes her unique.
The right detail or two will characterize and help paint a picture of who a person is. Hands rubbed raw from washing dishes all afternoon in scalding water. (hardworking, a provider.) Skin, doll-smooth, layered in foundation so thick it leaves a ring at the jawline (vanity, superficial, self-absorbed). A workman’s lurching walk, his faded overalls threadbare at the knees (sacrifice, poverty, pain). These details tell a story. They characterize. And most importantly, they are memorable.
The Physical Feature Thesaurus will look at the bodies of our characters part by part and provide micro details that will help writers brainstorm ways to create memorable imagery for the reader to connect with. We’ll provide a descriptive word list to help you convey character movement and communication, and offer ideas to get you thinking about how a particular attribute might be used to show your character’s unique personality and emotions.
All of the entries for this collection can be found here. And more good news! This entire thesaurus has been augmented and integrated into our online library at One Stop For Writers. There, you can find help with metaphors and similes, as well as the best ways to describe your character using movement. The entire Physical Feature collection is cross-referenced and linked for easy navigation. If you’re interested in seeing a free sampling of the updated Physical Feature Thesaurus and our other descriptive collections, head on over and register at One Stop!
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Gail Le Grá says
This with all your other books is a gem as is your website! I feel like I was given a gift when you directed me here Angela!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Happy our entries will help you, Gail 🙂 Thanks so much for the kind words!
Handy Man, Crafty Woman says
Thank you!! I struggle with description, too.
C.P. Bowyer says
Amazing. Love what you are doing, what a service. You have a special place in God’s heart and future. And in all of our hearts too!
Key Walker says
All the articles are amazing 🙂 And it’s nice to see other writers supporting describing characters. I ran into a lot of people (NaNo, and even a non-NaNo published author) who scolded me about describing my characters!
Melissa Sugar says
You continue to amaze me. I have tuned to your blog and now your book (that you for writing the book) just about every single time I need help with emotions,colors descriptions, settings etc. You have exceeded your greatness. I am delighted to find this new thesaurus. I often have trouble with description. Thanks again!
Amelia Loken says
Awesome! Totally need this! 🙂 Thanks!
Holee crap, this sounds freakin fantastic! Another must-buy–LOL! 😀
You guys are the best~ <3
Martha Ramirez says
Ooohhh thank you! looking frwd to reading the posts!
Charlie Holmberg says
I don’t care what the topic of your thesaurus is, I’m reading it!
Marisa Hopkins says
yay!! Looking forward to this VERY much! 🙂 You are just so awesome.
Ghenet Myrthil says
I can’t wait!! 🙂
Linda A. says
What a great gift! Thank you!
Janet Johnson says
You guys are just awesome! Description is probably my biggest weakness (among many) in writing, so this will be super helpful. Thanks for all you guys do!
Traci Kenworth says
This is going to an amazing addition to the references you’ve already given us!! Thank you!!
Kristin Lenz says
You two just keep coming up with helpful ideas – thank you!
That is a perfect additions to this incredible resourceful site. 🙂
Wonderful! I’m really looking forward to another excellent writing reference tool – thank you so much! 🙂
Has anyone told you lately how much you two seriously rock?? I have such a hard time with description so this is going to be super helpful.
I love The Emotion Thesaurus. Will you be eventually publishing The Physical Attribute Thesaurus too?
Vikki (www.the-view-outside.com) says
Excellent ladies! 🙂
Tracy Campbell says
Angela, I can’t wait to buy your next book. Looking forward to the posts. 🙂
The Pen and Ink Blog says
I NEED this. Thanks. Looking forward to it.
Susan at Pen and Ink
I’m so excited for this! Yay!!!
Becca Puglisi says
Thanks for all the kind words, everyone. So glad to hear you’re not sick of us yet :).
Carrie Butler says
Woohoo! I can’t wait. 😀
Susanne Drazic says
Chihuahua Zero says
I ordered the Emotions Thesaurus. I’m eagerly waited for it.
Donna K. Weaver says
Aimee Katherine says
So looking forward to this!!! Love the Hunger Games references too.
Kelly Polark says
Woot! Effie is perfect to go along with this. I could totally picture her in my head from Collins’ descriptions.
Nicole Zoltack says
Awesome! So looking forward to this.
Diane Carlisle says
Love it! Thank you for sharing such helpful tips. 🙂
Awesome! I’ll be looking forward to this new thesaurus. I loved all the previous ones.
Jessica S. says
This is going to be great and very useful! Can’t wait to see the first entry. 🙂
Laura Pauling says
Awesome! Looking forward to it!
WOOT! That’s my biggest headache. Definitely looking forward to it.
Angela Ackerman says
Becca and I are excited to tackle this aspect of description because it is so challenging. Thanks everyone for all your enthusiasm! Woot!
Jemi Fraser says
So awesome! I tend to be on the skimpy side of description so this is great!
What a great idea! Looking forward to reading your posts.
E.J. Wesley says
Really looking forward to this series, Angela! I love the nuance that goes into describing the physical side of characters. It’s so fascinating to see what a writer chooses to spotlight, and what they don’t. 🙂
Marissa Graff says
Yay! Excited for this 🙂
Ava Jae says
Fantastic! It sounds great! ^_^
Very nice. I look forward to it.
Stina Lindenblatt says
I can’t wait for this one! 😀
Natalie Aguirre says
So awesome Angela. Because I so struggle with description.