How To Write Physical Descriptions

    • Team NIE
    • Publish Date: Oct 23 2017 1:09PM
    • |
    • Updated Date: Oct 23 2017 3:15PM
How To Write Physical Descriptions

If you are a budding writer then the best way is to learn from others

You don’t always have to be specific

In F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, the reader never really learns the colour 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.”

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. Writing humour isn’t enough; it must also come with a deeper meaning to make it engaging to the audience.

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. Scatter brief descriptions throughout scenes. No doubt many of your favourite writers do this. Remember a personality comes through from his/her physical description.

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

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


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


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.

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Comments

Hemalatha.G Sethu Bhaskara Matriculation Higher Secondary Scho

Great article! Must - read for budding writers like me😁!

Aishwarya Iyer Deens Academy

Yes! Its really helpful!

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