PHYSICAL FEATURE THESAURUS

HANDS



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HELPFUL TIP:

One trick to writing fresh emotional responses is to focus on different parts of the body. Think carefully about the character’s exact emotions in the scene and how the body might shift or move in response. Vividly describing the colors, shapes, or textures in the character's environment can also bring the scene to life for readers.
DESCRIPTORS AND KEY ELEMENTS:
Arthritic
Bejeweled
Bony
Calloused
Clawed
Clenched
Dimpled
Dirt-creased
Dry-skinned
Elegant
Fat
Feminine
Fleshy
Freckly
Gentle
Gnarled
Graceful
Greasy
Knobby
Limp
Lined
Liver-spotted
Long-fingered
Manicured
Masculine
Pale
Pasty
Rigid
Rough
Scarred
Shaky
Skilled
Slick
Smooth
Smooth
Soft
Strong
Stubby
Sweaty
Veined
Weak
Wrinkled
COMMON ACTIONS AND ALTERNATIVE WORDS TO DENOTE THEM:
Hold: grasp, grip, squeeze, bruise, clutch, clasp, clinch
Grab: seize, take, imprison, catch, snatch, snag, nab
Tremble: quiver, shake, flutter, fidget, bounce, quake, tremor, quaver, shiver, shudder
Gesture: wave, beckon, flap, flail, wag, flutter, shoo, slap, clap, motion, gesticulate, dismiss, cut off, reassure
Connect with Others: shake hands, slap on the back, hold hands, squeeze a shoulder, pat a knee, rest approvingly on a child’s head, stroke someone's hair

EMOTIONS AND RELATED GESTURES:
  • Hand gestures become wilder and more exuberant as emotions escalate. Happiness might cause a person to grab onto others—often embracing or holding them—and their hands may wave and flap in the air.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, anger can be indicated with curled fingers and clenched fists. Angry people may exhibit hurtful or violent behaviors such as slapping, punching, shaking, slamming, pushing, shoving, ripping, tearing, choking, grabbing, or even killing or destroying.
  • Worry will often cause people to fidget with their hands: wringing, flapping, or twisting them together.
  • Fear is another strong feeling that will cause the hands to shake. A person in the throes of this emotion will often cover his head or hold his hands out in front of him to ward off danger.

SIMILE AND METAPHOR EXAMPLES:
His weathered sailor hands were knobby and twisted—more like sea coral than human flesh and bone.

Her long-fingered hands wrapped primly around the pitcher, two genteel ladies holding court at tea time.

CLICHÉS TO AVOID:
Man hands
Hands that look skeletal or spider-like
Fists clenched in anger with nails biting into the palms
Uncalloused, smooth hands as a sign of a privileged person
A true lady's hands being white and umblemished

BODY DESCRIPTION NOTES:
When describing any part of the body, use cues that show the reader more than just a physical sketch. Make your descriptions do double duty: We girls called him The Octopus because of his hands, which were rubbery and cold and seemingly everywhere at once.