1. watermark

    watermark Member

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    How to write descriptions of beautiful women?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by watermark, Jan 12, 2017.

    Right now I only know how to write them like this:

    Jane is beautiful.
    Jill is very beautiful.
    Jenny is beautiful too.

    As you can see, I obviously have a problem. I don't know how to describe beauty in women! (And while we're on the topic, how to describe handsomeness on guys too.)

    Of course, I can pull up a thesaurus too and change them to:

    Jane is pretty.
    Jill is gorgeous.
    Jenny is stunning.

    But somehow I think there's more to it than that. How would I go about describing women? Any examples? Any advice? Thanks so much!
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ok, first of all, stop telling me she's beautiful.

    What is her beauty made of? What are the materials? Give me that.
     
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  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Eyes are always a good place to start, namely the way he/she looks at you and what that makes you feel. Or the way you feel when a beautiful man/woman speaks your name. The latter is my favorite. I used to work dressing rooms in a casino and I nearly melted when Shania Twain looked at me and said my name with a smile. I was down for the count for the rest of the day.

    Having said that you definitely do not want to go overboard with the description. Nothing brings a narrative to a screeching halt quite like a mini treatise on what a person looks like or what they are wearing (I'm looking at you George R.R. Martin). A blurb here or there is okay, particularly if you need to fill in a dialogue beat or something.
     
  4. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    God, so true. :confuzled:
     
  5. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

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    Now, you can start by what is fascinating to the POV character. Why does he think her beautiful? Is it something in her stance and bearing, maybe her laughter? Or the way she seems always poised and elegant of movement? What does attract you about women? What does attract the POV character?

    'Beautiful' to one is not beautiful to another. I know for a fact that I, personally, have always been more fascinated by the unusual and imperfect guys. I've never been fascinated by the 'perfect', or even the usually 'handsome' called guys. Good for me and my female friend, because we have never quarrelled over the same guys ;)
     
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  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    But descriptions can make great signposts to cue the reader later on in a story. Say, you have serial killer (or something) that always wears an orange vest (nevermind that that would make the killer easy to identify for witnesses, cops, etc). The reader is aware of it, but other characters are not. So later in the story you can have Character A interacting with the killer (say they just met) in an otherwise innocuous scene. If you are in Character A's POV then she does not know he is the killer, and we the reader do not know he's the killer unless your omniscient voice blurts it out. Then in the middle of the scene you can drop a casual reference to the orange vest (remember, you are tight on Character A's POV here) and the reader is immediately cued. Character A has no clue, maybe she just comments that she likes the color, but the audience is like, "Oh no! Stabby stabby time!"
     
  7. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

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    I agree with this. Calling a character "beautiful" can conjure no image in our minds at all as to what they look like. That's not to say that a character should never be referred to as "beautiful" - because if someone loves them greatly, "beautiful" may feel to them like the best word to sum up their looks, and possibly their personality too - but it shouldn't be used to paint a picture in our minds when we don't already know what the character looks like. You don't need to understand how to describe a beautiful character, just how to describe the character you want to introduce. Really, as long as you don't go for any descriptions that involve stereotypical ugly features, (e.g. a big wart on the nose like an "ugly witch") beauty can be anything.

    A character can have set features (blonde hair, green eyes, crooked smile) but will be described differently in the minds of different people. They will notice certain things about her. If your narrator likes the look of this girl, he/she will paint a good picture for us using positive adjectives to let us know that he/she likes what he/she sees. If he/she does not, he/she will describe her differently. "Hair as white as fresh snow" may become "Dull, colourless hair." Her hair is still of a white/light blonde variety, but is viewed differently by each person.

    So, try opening the description with the first thing about Character A that catches Character B's eye, and work from there, describing what they see in a positive light. Then we will know that Character B thinks Character A is beautiful.
     
  8. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    I agree with @Lifeline and @Seren. Use the POV character as your basis, not only for describing beauty, but for describing anything. The last thing I want when I'm reading description is a dry objective narration from the author. Give me the description of the character through the lens of the character whose eyes we're looking through. What matters to one character is not what matters to another.

    Here's the thing, though. By doing this, you're not only describing the "beauty" of the target character. You're also giving us characterization of the POV character. The things he notices vs the things he doesn't, how he chooses to describe them, how brief or how detailed of a description he gives, all factor into who this character is. And that's way more valuable than a laundry list of adjectives, no matter how poetic those adjectives may be.
     
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  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Part of the answer depends on the goal. Why do you need to describe them? Why do they need to be beautiful? What's the situation?

    Let's imagine that Jane is a tall, extremely thin, pretty girl with pale skin and bright-blonde hair.

    Someone who adores Jane in a romantic sense:

    Jane is like an elf spun from sunshine.

    Someone who really dislikes Jane:

    Jane is a bleached-blonde bundle of sticks.
     
  10. watermark

    watermark Member

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    Thanks so much for the comments so far!

    Another question. Any books in particular you can recommend I study to learn how to write descriptions, esp of women, better? (I'm guessing not one of the ASOIAF books...:p) Perhaps romance novels?
     
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  11. amerrigan

    amerrigan Active Member

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    I'm not sure of any books that would help you.

    But the people on this forum know a few tricks that you could learn.

    One of which is the writing technique of 'using description to tell a story'. It not only applies to environments, but to people as well. The following is a classic 'writers lesson' of using description to tell the story:

    'In 300 words, describe a street in such a way that you know that one of your character's mothers has just died, without ever saying it.'

    When beauty becomes a part of the character's story and influences the actions of the people around them, then you start to figure out ways in which to describe the beauty in a storied way.

    So you could change it to, 'In 300 words, describe how your character looks in such a way that you know that your protagonist is obsessed with them, without ever saying it.'
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
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  12. amerrigan

    amerrigan Active Member

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    I couldn't help myself but have a practice run:

    “…then Clare sat down at the dinner table. Clare had the brownest eyes I had ever seen. When you smiled at her, her eyes seemed to light up; and, as they did, I spilled gravy on the table. She laughed. I quickly mopped it up, embarrassed, but knocked over the salt as I wasn’t paying attention, watching her broad smile. Her lips were thin, small, and the top one came together to make a perfect M. She told me that I should pinch the salt and throw it over my shoulder. I did it clumsily, on purpose, tossing it against my shoulder, and asked her if she could show me how it should be done. A stupid game, I know, but she played along. She always played along. Her fingers were slender, nails cut short, she picked up the salt, and with a graceful movement the salt flew past her bare collarbone; exposed for all to see by her strapless floral dress. I watched as a single grain of the salt landed on her dark brown skin and rolled down to her underarm. My eyes traveled along the path of her long black hair back up to her eyes. She was still looking at me, waiting for me to try again. I mumbled something dismissive and quickly picked up my fork and started playing with my food, hiding behind the other conversations, and feeling guilty for watching a grain of salt roll down my wife’s sister’s body…”
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
  13. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Women in modern romance novels tend to be plain Jane blank slates and self critical.
     
  14. watermark

    watermark Member

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    @amerrigan Hey I really liked how you used a "guy does something and how girl reacts to that" to describe the girl. That's something I never thought of doing before!
     
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  15. amerrigan

    amerrigan Active Member

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    Thanks. I tried to capture some of the obsessive behavior within the description. The obsessed person's manipulation of their victims behavior. And also their reading of everything their obsession does as a positive reciprocation of their dark desires.

    I like doing writing exercises like these. I find them to be a lot of fun.
     
  16. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Don't describe a character as the most beautiful or perfect using omniscient pov,
     
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  17. Oswiecenie

    Oswiecenie Active Member

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    1. Look at descriptions of other beautiful literary characters.

    2. Describe what would make your character stand out in this sea of beautiful literary characters.
     
  18. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

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    Romance novels don't always go into huge detail in their description, often because they have the whole novel to weave in little comments about certain features of the main characters. But I'm an avid fan of them, so if you do take a look, I'd highly recommend Sarah Morgan's stories, because she writes from the POV's of both the male and female protagonists. It should help you with writing descriptions about both. (She's written a lot of them to varying degrees of quality, so I'd go for one that's still available in paperback and published with either Mills & Boon or Harlequin.)
     
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  19. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Women by Charles Bukowski.

    That is the book you want.
     
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  20. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    I can only add Francis Bacon's observation: “There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.” Oversized eyes, nose, or ears, long fingers, whatever. They're the features that you notice, that set your character apart from the rest of humanity.
     
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  21. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    My wife calls me 'handsome' but most would not because I'm not even close to 'movie average' let alone 'movie pretty.' So, yeah, it's subjective as hell and Hollywood has given us a standard so out of whack as to make some cry.

    But...

    When someone is truly attracted to someone else—and I'm talking soul-mate attracted—the first bite (to quote Kryton the mechanoid) is with the eye. Eyes are what I saw when I first encountered my wife across a crowded room... literally, it was a crowded corridor at university and for the first few seconds, all I saw was her eyes and I couldn't look away. I was peripherally aware of her smile (still gives me goosebumps, BTW, even after 31 years) but mostly it was that 'hey! how do I know this person?' thing in her eyes that I was aware of.

    Although time didn't stand still, we both did... and simply stared at each other like we'd both found a long-lost friend.
     
  22. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And by dint of every coin having two sides, the opposite can happen. When I was UF, my roomate's boyfriend had a chum named Wyatt. Very good looking in an off-the-shelf sort of way. He was a really shitty person, though, as I came to learn. And as I came to learn that, his charms faded. It's not that I became immune to his pulchritude; his pulchritude literally lessened in my eyes. The unevenness of his teeth. The barest hint of a lazy eye. The way he clearly did not wash his hair on a daily basis. These things came to the fore as my initial impression faded into the background. A flat, checklist description of Wyatt would not cover this phenomenon.
     
  23. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    That's one hell of a word; it makes 'beauty' sound... well... awful. I had to look it up (thank you, Google) :)

    And the rest of what you wrote seems to me to be a very good example of describing a person... the lessening of attraction over time based on what's inside the person. Two thumbs up.
     
  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Seriously ? I wash mine about once a fortnight whether it needs it or not ( I do shower more often I hasten to add, its just that I'm very tall so my head doesn't go under the shower head without contortions)

    On the wider point I also look a bit like a werewolf , or if wearing my shapka 'like a deranged spaniel' this hasn't however over the years stopped various women from getting all fluttery over my looks and manly charm
     
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  25. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Wyatt was (is) blond. His unwashed hair showed. *shrug*

    Amongst many other things, Americans are known for their bathing fetish. :oops: I bathe twice a day, tip to toe.
     
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