Describing body types

Question: I've been struggling with this for a while I don't know how describe my character's body type. I can picture it in my head and then I find the right words to use but then for my next character I picture their body type and it's similar to the one before but they have a slight difference like they're broader or they're skinnier but I can't think of the right words to use besides the ones I already used. Can you help?

How would you describe these body types?

Answer: I suspect the reason you are having trouble with your descriptions is that the differences between your characters' body types are so slight that "body type" is not a distinguishing trait for them.

You may be focusing too much on the characters' similarities and not enough on their differences, on those traits that set them apart from each other.

Your aim should be to give each character his or her own unique physical tags (traits) that distinguish him from other characters. You do this in part because it helps the reader keep track of who's who. For instance, if all of your characters have black hair, there would be no need to ever mention hair colour, because that would not be a distinguishing trait. You would have a lot of trouble trying to explain how each character's hair was a slightly different shade of black in a way that the reader could picture.

If you were writing a story in a world full of identical clones, rather than repeatedly mentioning the traits they all share in common, you would instead assign other types of tags that help the reader tell the characters apart. For instance, you might mention things like scars, tattoos, or signs that indicate different ages. One character might use a unique perfume. One might constantly scratch his ears. One might have a speech impediment. Another might walk with a slight limp. Or you might give characters different tastes in clothes, different haircuts, or distinct voices.

It's no wonder you are having a hard time explaining slight differences in body type, because English vocabulary is not that precise, unless you want to give a detailed scientific analysis with precise measurements (and I don't think that would be fruitful).

Most adjectives are, in a sense, comparative. We say someone is tall if he is six feet tall and everyone else in the village is under 5'8". On the other hand, if the average height is 6'2", we would say is is a little short. It's what sets a person apart from the crowd that makes him stand out, not the similarities.

It's okay to mention that two characters have similar builds (if that sets them apart from the other characters), but then tell us what traits each one has that the other does not. That will make it much clearer for the reader.

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