characters / descriptors / writers resources

How to Describe Actions That Are Timeless

There are certain actions your characters participate in that are not tied to an era, a culture, or an event. They’re more likely to be dictated by the human essence, or nature. I’ve created a list of the ones that grab my attention. As with all of my lists, these come from books I’ve read, so be sure if you use them to rephrase to suit your particular character and plot:

  • turned to face him head-on
  • vaporized breath swirled around his head
  • breath spun whitely before vanishing in the chill
  • thick black wealth of her hair glistened as it swayed to her step
  • shook her head and gave a not-now look
  • kept his mouth shut and settled for a hard look
  • Chose the moment with care
  • sobs like hiccups
  • nodded his direction
  • making that connect-the-dots match-up
  • heaviness descended upon him
  • Adrenaline was like that. You could travel on the fumes
  • mouth-watering aroma
  • melted away like snow from a fire
  • by-now familiar reaction
  • tainted by a faint odor
  • fidgeting in the attempt to look at ease
  • ringing was growing in her ears
  • shifted uncomfortably
  • flexed one foot
  • pacing back and forth
  • moving from one foot to the other
  • shifted from one foot to the other
  • grunted as he shifted, trying to keep his ankles from paining him
  • stepping lightly
  • At first, she saw only an amorphous blotch, then head and shoulders. She could make out a face, but few details. She could hear coarse raspy breathing
  • prize out roots
  • forget where you put them
  • take on too many responsibilities
  • never went 40 seconds without smiling
  • walk with labored dignity
  • far too good-looking for a man who worked in close proximity to impressionable young women
  • his good mood lasted for 5 seconds
  • A symphony of movement
  • crouched by the fire
  • inhaling the steam, letting it sink into his pores, wishing that it would wash the horror away
  • when Tall Dark and Handsome crooked his finger…
  • exuded a dangerous quality
  • remark came out of left field, and she could only stare at him
  • a sensation that the slightest mistake might let loose a maelstrom
  • the man’s cocked head, bland expression and curious smile
  • she looked uncertain
  • ran through him like a beam of sunshine
  • stood smiling in the midst of the miasma
  • boy and his dad, running around the track. I could distinguish father from son without looking. Dad, with measured soft steps, rolling heal to toe, son with the clump-clump of children falling forward, not bending from the knee, just plopping the foot to the ground and moving on. (I like the idea in this one of knowing your characters by their movements, not their appearance or voice)
  • my brain spun along in neutral, stunned, exhausted

For more descriptors for characters and settings, click here.


2 thoughts on “How to Describe Actions That Are Timeless

  1. Pingback: 70 Collections to Infuse Your Writing | WordDreams...

  2. Pingback: 70 Collections to Infuse Your Writing « Jacqui Murray

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