1. zaphod
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    zaphod Member

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    ways to describe female body shape

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by zaphod, Jun 17, 2009.

    I've run into a huge problem I never foresaw when creating the images of my characters in my head.

    How do you casually describe a typical looking young female character who is say, roughly 5'7" and 160 lbs? I basically chose this for realism and to imply things about the characters' personality. I really want to describe "the girl at work" who is not supposed to be hot but perhaps attractive in some other way.

    my issue seems to be arising from the double standards and amount of sensitivity that one, especially a dude, goes about with using adjectives here. My perception tells me "average" on the hyper-critical scale of female body image means a step below barbie doll, and beyond that one runs into gross or pervy sounding adjectives. Ughh...this sucks.

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    As I said I'm a guy too, don't know what that would mean either. Can someone help me?
  2. DarkMaiden273
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    DarkMaiden273 New Member

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    When he walked into the office he heard the familair laughter of Anita, a twenty-something co-worker, who he had never really thought much about. Glancing over he took in her plain jeans and t-shirt, noting she had a clean, heart-shaped face with soft green eyes, slim and not too tall. She was cute, he thought, in a girl-next-door type of way. Her brown hair was twisted up into a pony-tail now. He turned his attention back to his desk...
    i don't know. i hope this helps. this is something that i just came up with.
  3. CDRW
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    CDRW New Member Contributor

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    Or you could wax poetic (and mean) with something like:

    She was invisible. She was more than invisible. When something is invisible you at least notice that there is an empty space there. If she was ugly I would have noticed her. If she was beautiful I would have noticed her. Tall or short, heavy or skinny, if there was anything distinguishabe about her I would have noticed her. The problem was that she was not in the least bit noticable. She was a heaping mound of mediocrity who's very presence would have screamed "don't notice me," except that screaming draws attention.
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Who is doing the describing? Is the narration from a character's point of view? If so, and it probably is, you need to see her through the eyes of your character, and speak through his voice.

    So maybe she's sorta hot and sorta not, but something about her fascinates him. He isn't quite sure what it is about her, but he finds himself unable to stop looking.

    Don't describe what he wouldn't notice. Most guys wouldn't give a crap about what kind of purse she's carrying, or whether her lip gloss is cerise or coral. Hell, it may be days before he could even tell you what color eyes she has.

    If you;re having trouble putting what he sees into words, do some field work. Hang out where guys are watching girls, and listen to them. Keep in mind that a group of all guys will probably be showing off to their buddies, so the talk is probably not going to be as genuine as when a guy is speaking to his best friend about someone he thinks he likes but is scared to mess up things by saying the wrong thing.
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    "heart-shaped face"

    I hope that description dies. I don't know why authors ever started using it. Reading about a woman with a heart face is about as appealing as a woman with an egg head.

    As far as describing body type, try to think of how he would describe it.
  6. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 New Member

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    It all depends really, but the best way I've come up with is looking at pictures and thinking about how I would describe that person. It also depends on what a guy would look at first on a woman.
  7. seta
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    seta New Member

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    I don't like it when authors try to go into great depth describing someone's physical attributes. Rather, I like a few guiding points from the author and then let my imagination do the rest of the work.

    "The soldier who appeared in front of me was large and broad-shouldered. His brawny arms and dark skin stood in direct contrast to the warm and friendly smile on his face. I was gad to see my old friend."

    I know it's simple and not very poetic, but it illustrates my point that you just crafted an image of the person I was talking about in your head.
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies iModerate Staff Member Supporter Reviewer Contributor

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    Although not really a Ray Bradbury fan, in his The Martian Chronicles, he does the most poetic description of two men, one human, one Martian, separated in time and space, but both thinking about the same thing, beautiful women with bodies curved like the lines of boats.
  9. Lil Miss Me
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    Lil Miss Me New Member

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    The Best Way To Describe A Character...

    Is not to do it. Nobody wants to sit and read long winded descriptions about characters. Throw in a line here or there.

    "This that and the other thing" she said while tucking a loose strand of her jet black hair behind her ear.

    Subtle stuff like that that will eventually creat a full picture. That's my advice. :)
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is a poor example. You're jamming a piece of description in where it doesn't belong. It's distracting and unnatural. She might possibly casually tuck a strand of hair out of the way, and speak at the same time, but while implies more event synchronization than good practice dictates. Joining the two events with and is a better choice.

    More importantly, while she may tuck a distracting lock of hair aside, there's no way in hell she would be thinking of it as a "jet black strand." Only someone meeting her for the first time, or currently fascinated with her hair, would take any notice of that detail, so it just doesn't fit the narration.

    It's inconsistent with the point of view.
  11. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss New Member

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    ... or even IF he would describe it. That's the thing. If there are aspects the character is drawn to (that do not include her body shape, size, and so forth), then what are those characteristics? THAT, more than anything, will suggest to a reader that it's not the details of her appearance that matter, in this particular case. Could be an especially "connecting" moment of some kind where a simple gesture or single feature or shift from a smile to a laugh suddenly becomes irresistable--her "short, messy hair style" or the particular shift of her body as she crossed her [even sizeable] legs"--or whatever. Probably hard to describe such things if you've never experienced that peculiar kind of magnetism or charisma coming from someone who's less than properly glamorous. But if you have, then maybe that's something you could use.
  12. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 New Member

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    This is actually good advice, and it keeps the reader's interested
  13. Smithy
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    Smithy New Member

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    I justify a description of a female character with the fact that the POV character is certain he recognises her from somewhere and so is taking her all in, trying to work out where he knows her from.

    It includes the phrase "china-doll pretty" with regards to her face, does everyone understand what that means or is it too far out and I should think of something else?
  14. JavaMan
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    JavaMan New Member

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    On the surface, it has potential. My only advice is that considering the current trends in world politics, that phrase may or may not have the full actualization of the desired effect due to it's connotation.

    Of course, all of that depends largely on who's reading.
  15. PS Foster
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    PS Foster New Member

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    In one of my stories I described my female MC as looking like Shania Twain with red hair.

    Most people know who Shania Twain is, so it described her body, looks, and style all in one.
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Careful with that approach. In five years, a reader might scratch his head and say, "Shania Twain? Who's that?"
  17. ChaseRoberts
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    ChaseRoberts New Member

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    China dolls frighten me. Their faces are blank, staring and frozen, like little dead babies varnished and stuffed and left for eternity. I'd not thank anyone for describing me like a china doll, as unlikely as that was to happen.
  18. NaCl
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    NaCl New Member Contributor

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    "ways to describe female body shape"

    Braille...give me braille every time! LOL
  19. KurtistheTurtle
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    KurtistheTurtle New Member

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    You should totally gank this.
  20. echo_wolf
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    echo_wolf New Member

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    If she is just a normal, average girl, I see a soft round face. Now you have body shape to deal with. You can use words like, soft feminen curves, or just curves, without being suggestive. If you are commenting on her upper reagon dont use soemthing like big boobs or hooters, insted, a reasonable bust. I hope this helps.

    Oh and for some reason, when I see a height of 5'5" or above for a girl, I would think skinnier. But this is coming from someone who is 5'0" weighing 120. :)
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, the words you use in description can reveal a lot about the character whose POV you are presenting; so does the choice of features to describe. So describing her as having "large luscious hooters" or "bodacious sweater puppies" would say more about the POV character than about the girl he (or she) is describing. A different person might describe her as "curvy and gorgeous."

    So I wouldn't say don't use the more sophomoric terms. I'd say instead to choose wording that tells you about BOTH characters. It doesn't mean the writer thinks that way, unless you are using a more anonymous POV.
  22. AliceInBookland
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    AliceInBookland New Member

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    I think most people here are missing the "body shape" in the title, unless you are, in fact, looking for help describing her face and appearance in general.

    With regards to the body shape, I give you this advice: try to find a balance between something your male readers will understand, and something your female readers will understand. For example:

    Her blonde hair moved in a strawberry-scented cloud as she laughed politely at Dan. My eyes drifted, as usual, to the swell of her hips, swathed in a knee-length brown skirt that fit a touch too tight for modesty. Gabrielle would be in my dreams that night, with every inch of her soft, curvy body.

    A bad example for your specific question, since this refers to a woman who clearly attracts a lot of male attention. But to make my point:

    Male readers, when they see "soft, curvy body" are going to think of a pin-up girl, a small waist and rounded buttocks, a full bra and toned legs. A female reader is more likely to think of a more womanly character, possibly plus-sized. We've been conditioned to think that "curvy" and "womanly" are buzzwords for fat chicks to make themselves feel better. A female author might describe Cameron Diaz as "a leggy, superficial blonde whose exaggerated laugh made everyone wince at the possiblity of her striped tube top slipping down to her waist." A male author might describe her as "a tall, athletic blonde, with a wide, genuine smile and legs for miles."

    Depending on which sex you're writing for, that will help determine how to describe your character. 5' 7" and 160 pounds is a healthy weight that, distributed well, can be extremely attractive. For men who prefer more solid women, that's near the perfect weight. Do you want the main character to see her as slightly overweight, or does he eventually notice her and realize how perfect she is?

    For a woman who's simply not that noticeable until you get to know her, try this: don't really mention her body type until the moment your character does. The moment he notices the soft warmth of her thigh brushing his leg on the bench, or the moment she bends over to get a file from the drawer and he realizes how her ass is just begging to be spanked. Two very different characters, just then, but I don't know who your character is.

    I hope I've helped a bit.
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