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.
Descriptors: short, thick, stocky, strong, squat, sturdy, compact, square
People Likely to have a Stocky Build: wrestlers, weightlifters, little people
- Sean Astin…
Thoughts on the Stocky Physique: Stocky bodies are a bit hard to define because they’re somewhere between thin and overweight. Stocky bodies tend to be…
Simile and Metaphor Help:
- I walked out of American History and got completely plowed. I looked up at Justin from my spot on the floor and rubbed my shoulder. Jeez, it was like running into a wall…
Clichés to Avoid: the stocky person who is squat like a toad or built like a small mountain
Twists on the Stereotypical Stocky Build:
- Most stocky characters seem to be harsh, bullying, or unintelligent. Twist the cliché by making your stocky character kindhearted, soft-spoken, or happy…
Describe your character’s features in a way that reveals more than just a physical description. Show what he looks like while also reinforcing his personality and emotional state, thereby doing more with less.
Need concrete examples of how to describe your character in a compelling, magnetic way? Good news! This thesaurus has been 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!
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Melissa Sugar says
Another helpful and extremely useful post. I guess fate directed me to your blog today. I’ve been away from blogging and commenting lately as I’ve been devoting every spare minute to writing. I was stuck on the physical description of a character and I turned to your blog (like I always do when I need help describing anything), and was delighted to find your new(er) series of physical descriptions. Reading your blog always pulls me out of my writing slump. Thank you.
Susanne Drazic says
Becca Puglisi says
Kessie, that’s true; I forget that tall people can be stocky, too, since we so often see this body type attributed to shorter people. Maybe we need more tall stocky types to shake up that cliché ;).
Angela Ackerman Becca Puglisi says
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Very helpful, as usual. Thanks for the post.
Angela Ackerman says
Haha, yes Leslie, I know what you mean.
Leslie S. Rose says
Um, we prefer the term “solid.” 🙂
My main character’s looks are based on my husband, who is six feet tall and stocky. I always joke that he looks like a bouncer. But he’s an absolute sweetheart. It’s fun to work that into my MC. I do get so tired of reading about perfect men with perfect bodies. I’ve known men with great bodies, and they work out so much, they’ve all been somewhat narcissistic.
Jemi Fraser says
Great points! We do tend to idealize our main characters a lot of the time. Turning that around would be fun 🙂