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How do you describe someone as pretty? :

 1 d Roy, Wed, 19th Oct '11 3:18:27 AM Relationship Status: Hounds of love are hunting
I don't want to say outright that "She was a pretty girl." or something like that. Is there any more subtle way to describe someone, male or female, attractive without making the readers cringe?

Describe features that you find attractive and hope that the readers agree?

 3 d Roy, Wed, 19th Oct '11 4:25:09 AM Relationship Status: Hounds of love are hunting
That’s the thing about written media; in visual media, you can either draw characters attractively or cast attractive actors. In novels…you just got to ask the readers to take your word for it.

I guess you could also give hints through the narrative. Other characters' reactions, for example, or saying that she was once lead actress in a school play or something.

But you better be very subtle about it.

 5 d Roy, Wed, 19th Oct '11 4:32:40 AM Relationship Status: Hounds of love are hunting
Ah, yes subtlety. An art that only comes from many, MANY, practices.

Shadowed Philosopher
I'm always in fairly tight third-person, so I just write "She's pretty" as part of the thoughtstream of the current perspective character.
Shinigan (Naruto fanfic)
 7 feotakahari, Wed, 19th Oct '11 11:43:49 AM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
I vaguely remember a book in which the narrator broke the fourth wall to talk about how much of a problem this was. He could just say the girl had red hair, but what if the reader doesn't like red hair? Or he could start throwing in phrases like "wise eyes" and "proud breasts, " but that seems a little over-the-top. Eventually, he just said this: she wore the sort of hideous horn-rimmed glasses that almost always make people look ridiculous—and she was still pretty despite them.

(As for how I personally have done it, I usually talk in terms of what the viewpoint character finds attractive. For instance, a character who's into the Nordic ideal says that another character "looks like he stepped off a plinth in the park.")

edited 19th Oct '11 11:47:04 AM by feotakahari

That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
I use words. Pretty ones.

That’s the thing about written media; in visual media, you can either draw characters attractively or cast attractive actors. In novels…you just got to ask the readers to take your word for it.

You're still casting characters, but you have to learn what words strike which emotions or senses. "She walked into the room and everyone felt peaceful, " is nice and all, but doesn’t evoke much imagery. I'd give an example, but it'd be a pretty bad one at that.

Hell, this is something I need practice with too. Don't be afraid of the color purple with your prose every now and again.

Or he could start throwing in phrases like "wise eyes" and "proud breasts, "
Any book that used a term like "proud breasts" would probably get chucked in my rubbish bin.
 10 KSPAM, Wed, 19th Oct '11 12:25:05 PM from running in the 90s Relationship Status: Getting away with murder
Likes interesting stories
[up] Same.

Generally, I tend to incorporate my character's thoughts into my narrative, so it generally comes out there. If I have to describe someone who's exceptionally attractive without resorting to character reaction, I think the best thing to do is to try and be human about it.

Don't describe their features excessively, just note more general things. Maybe highlight one or two things the POV character finds attractive about them, but don't rant about their luscious eyes and entrancing hips tongue
Team? You mean cannon fodder? — neobowman

Goodfae: a mafia web serial
 11 Night, Wed, 19th Oct '11 1:17:42 PM from PSNS Intrepid Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Who you are does not matter.
I don't. I describe them. Pretty isn't a description. It's a reaction.

Let the readers have their own views of the world. It's not like you can stop them.

edited 19th Oct '11 1:18:25 PM by Night

"Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other...and rise."
Also known as Katz
[up]This is true. In first person or limited third, the narrator can just say she's pretty because that's what s/he thinks, but in true third person, you can't because that's an opinion and a nonexistent narrator doesn't have an opinion.

Responsible adult
I've always been fond of the line "She had a face that would make a priest kick in a stained glass window."
"Proto-Indo-European makes the damnedest words related. It's great. It's the Kevin Bacon of etymology." ~Madrugada
Shadowed Philosopher
That's amusing, but kind of jarring. It makes me want to stop and figure out precisely what kind of face would make a priest want to do that, which may or may not be what you're after.
Shinigan (Naruto fanfic)
 15 Night, Wed, 19th Oct '11 4:24:20 PM from PSNS Intrepid Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Who you are does not matter.
Yeah, the ambiguity makes that one multiple-choice.
"Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other...and rise."
 16 toalordsothe, Wed, 19th Oct '11 4:33:40 PM from Hell, Michigan
Not a Dong
"I would hit that like the fist of an angry god."

g'night everybody.

CAUSE EVERY GIRL IS CRAZY 'BOUT A SHARP DRESSED MAN
 17 KSPAM, Wed, 19th Oct '11 4:53:28 PM from running in the 90s Relationship Status: Getting away with murder
Likes interesting stories
Or something lampshadey, like: "In a romance novel, men would describe her with phrases like "captivating" and "enchanting", her eyes "deep pools of amber brown". But this being reality, a simple "hot damn!" sufficed."
Team? You mean cannon fodder? — neobowman

Goodfae: a mafia web serial
 18 Voltech 44, Wed, 19th Oct '11 4:56:34 PM from Alongside a Virtual Weasel
All Guns Sparking
You could try branching off from just describing the appearance and explain what the effects of being pretty have. In other words, how does the character act? Is he/she proud of the way they look? If so, that character can show it with a confident swagger or sultry sashay — or, alternatively, have a certain meekness or fidgeting that only adds to the appeal/highlights their finer points. (By the same token, how they dress might also lend some aid.)

And how do others react to him/her? If other characters are using the aforementioned "hit that like the fist of an angry god" in conversation, I'd say that's worth something.

...Or maybe they just smell really nice.
Super Blog Link (Arcade Edition ver. 2013)
 19 JHM, Wed, 19th Oct '11 5:01:51 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Prettiness seems to have a lot to do with odd little things like bone structure, but saying that in prose (or to someone in Real Life) is only in very rare contexts anything other than awkward and creepy.
 20 nrjxll, Wed, 19th Oct '11 5:03:39 PM Relationship Status: Not war
I've never written in anything outside of first-person or third-person limited, so I'd have no problem simply saying that the character in question was pretty.

 21 Voltech 44, Wed, 19th Oct '11 5:13:39 PM from Alongside a Virtual Weasel
All Guns Sparking
[up][up]Ah, like the golden ratio?

Imagine that as a pickup line. "Oooh, baby, your face is so mathematically proportionate."
Super Blog Link (Arcade Edition ver. 2013)
See ALL the stars!
This is probably just bias because I'm reading it ATM, but I thought Maskerade did this quite well. For instance, to describe Agnes, Pterry says, "It was an education seeing Agnes turn around, " and "Most of Agnes stopped. The outlying regions took some time to catch up."

edited 19th Oct '11 5:31:54 PM by Yej

Da Rules excuse all the inaccuracy in the world. Listen to them, not me.
 23 JHM, Wed, 19th Oct '11 5:48:02 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up][up] Yes, though it applies to depth and relative movement just as much as the length and width discussed therein.

Which leads to yet another ludicrous chat-up: "When you speak, your mouth moves in scientifically exemplary muscular arcs."

The follow-up to that being, of course: "Shall we explore the symmetrical movement of our lips together?"

*drink hits face*

edited 19th Oct '11 5:51:16 PM by JHM

Responsible adult
[up][up] Actually, I would probably find it cute if anyone was nerdy enough to try that one on me in real life.
"Proto-Indo-European makes the damnedest words related. It's great. It's the Kevin Bacon of etymology." ~Madrugada
It's easy, mmkay?
If they're pretty, they're probably a Mary Sue. Make them ugly instead.

/sarcasm
At first I didn't realize I needed all this stuff...
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