Physical Attributes Entry: Noses


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.



NOSES


Descriptors:  large, small, bulbous, aquiline, Grecian, spreading, squashed, bumpy, humped, crooked, broken, bloody, straight, hooked, pert, button, flat, freckled, veined, sun-spotted, pink/red, dripping, sniffling, sniffing, twitching, honking, wrinkled, crinkled, stopped-up, snotty, congested, germy, frostbitten, sunburned, peeling

Noises Noses Make:  sniffle, snuffle, sniff, whistle, huff, wheeze, snore, snort, blow, honk, gurgle, puff, inhale, exhale


Key Emotions and Related Nose Gestures: 
When someone is feeling defensive, smug, or proud, the nose will lift, along with the head, shoulders, and overall bearing. It also lifts when a smell is detected. Noses run when people cry, giving the voice a stopped-up, nasal quality to indicate sadness. Disgust or contempt is displayed by a wrinkling of the nose, while a flaring of the nostrils is a good sign that someone is angry. People will often scratch or rub their nose when they're feeling nervous or uneasy. Also, people frequently touch their noses when they're being dishonest.

Simile and Metaphor Help:                         
  • He blew into a hanky, sounding like an out-of-tune trumpet.
  • She pinched her ski-slope nose, trying to flatten the upturned launch at its end.
Clichés to Avoid: someone looking down their nose at you; big noses being compared to Pinocchio's or Cyrano de Bergerac's; having a nose like a hawk; the cute little button nose


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 (in honor of the long-awaited Hobbit movie): 

    Round the corner came a black horse, no hobbit-pony but a full-sized horse; and on it sat a large man, who seemed to crouch in the saddle, wrapped in a great black hood and cloak, so that only his boots in the high stirrups showed below; his face was shadowed and invisible.
    When it reached the tree and was level with Frodo, the horse stopped. The riding figure sat quite still with its head bowed, as if listening. From inside the hook came a noise as of someone sniffling to catch an elusive scent.

I like this example because there's no real description of any physical features. Tolkien only uses the Black Rider's crouched posture and its nose to underscore the creature's evil.


BONUS TIP: The Colors, Textures & Shapes Thesaurus in our sidebar might help you find a fresh take on some of the descriptors listed above! 

17 comments:

Carrie Butler said...

Another great one! :)

Nikki Diehm said...

In loveee with this! I now plan to scour your blog in hopes that there are more attribute pages to find. Thanks for a great post!

Amir jamil said...
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Donna K. Weaver said...

This is great. Made me think of the lyrics to a song from a play popular when I was in college: a nose is nose if a rose is a rose, as everybody knows. Silly, I know.

naveed qumer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa said...

Great post! :D

Marcia said...

This really makes noses come to life! :) And I love the two sample simile/metaphor sentences.

cleemckenzie said...

Great suggestions. Thanks for reminding me that characters have noses. :-)

Karen Lange said...

Good stuff, as always. :) Thanks a bunch!

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

Noses are so important too because they define everything about the face.

Saumya said...

AMAZING!! I always talk about noses (yes, weird) and how they are the midpoint of a face. This is a wonderful post.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Hmmm, this is something I need to work on. I rarely mention the noses in my books unless they are sneezing, sniffling or can't breathe. Great post!

Juhty mirzza said...
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Wendy's Writing said...

Hi. Just to let you know tht I've nominated your blog for the 'Very Inspiring Blog' award. (Details on my blog).

Traci Kenworth said...

I just had to do a nose description on a character a few days ago. I settled for bent and crooked. These descriptions help so much!! You two really are doing an amazing job with these thesauruses!!

lbdiamond said...

EXCELLENT!!!!

PoetryPagan said...

I've never really paid attention to what I make a character's nose do. I'm more paranoid about making the same sounds (sighing, grunting, etc) or referring to someone's eyes too much.

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