And now, on to today's Physical Attributes Entry:
CHINS & JAWS
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.
Chins: double or triple, flabby, fleshy, undercut, recessed, pointy, sharp, cleft, dimpled, weak, strong, stubborn, stubbly, bearded, pimply, square, prominent
Jaws: clenched, wide, square, wired shut, clicking, creaking, sore, loose, jowly
Things Chins Do: jut, gesture, point, lift, lower, quiver, tremble
Things Jaws Do: drop open, clench, break, lock, slide back and forth, pop or crack,
Key Emotions and Related Gestures:
- Anger: grinding teeth that result in a clenched jaw and "hard" chin; muscles jumping near the chin or jawline, tendons standing out; a chin that looks stronger or more prominent due to jutting out
- Fear: chattering teeth due to a quivering jaw; clenching the teeth in an effort to keep the jaw still; dropping the jaw so as to breathe in more oxygen in preparation for what's to come
- Sadness: a chin that quivers or trembles; a chin that drops to the chest; covering or rubbing the chin in an effort to hold back tears or keep others from noticing
Simile and Metaphor Help:
- Megan's eyes flashed and she snapped her teeth shut. Her ever-pointy chin came at me like a missile.
- Melvin towered over me, waiting for me to get up. I stayed where I was, working my jaw back and forth to test the damage. It creaked like a rusty barn door but seemed to be working.
Clichés to Avoid: elfin chins; glass jaws; a weak chin as a sign of a weasely, skeevy character
HINT: When describing any part of the body, try to use cues that show the reader more than just a physical description. Make your descriptions do double duty. Example: Hank leaned back in his chair, hands laced lightly over his torso, considering me. I couldn't look at his eyes, too scared to see his decision there, so I stared at his chin—dimpled and pale as a baby's bottom. But with the tiniest jerk, his goons would turn me into a bloody smear. I looked at the floor instead.
BONUS TIP: The Colors, Textures & Shapes Thesaurus in our sidebar might help you find a fresh take on some of the descriptors listed above!