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How do you describe someone as pretty? :

 26 Crystal Glacia, Wed, 19th Oct '11 7:11:39 PM from Cedarpointland
patience, young padawan
I once had a character describe a woman he met as "a succubus of a woman". Confidence, not arrogance or cockiness is a rather universally attractive trait.
Easily entertained
Check out the page quote for Femme Fatale, though that sort of thing wouldn't work in all stories. It depends on the tone, really.
 28 d Roy, Wed, 19th Oct '11 9:31:30 PM Relationship Status: Getting away with murder
"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."

[awesome][awesome][awesome]
"Allah may guide their bullets, but Jesus helps those who aim down the sights."
My idea would be to describe how characters react to them. If everybody is chasing a character around, that would indicate she is pretty.

In one story I wrote, the narrator was describing her mother as "looking like an actress on a safari", thereby hinting that she was pretty, she was dressed in a certain manner, that there was some sort of connection with Africa in my story, and the character's pride in inheriting her mother's good looks. Of course, this narrator also happens to know her genetic pedigree going back to the 14th Century, and happens to be the target of a white supremist leader who wants her to become the mother of a master race, so readers would probably guess that she is good looking.

I tend to be of the school to let the readers form their own vision of the character, and if different readers have different visions, that's alright. So I might mention beauty if it is a story point, such as one character who is a porn star, so discussion of her body parts was in keeping with that persona.

Whether good looking or not, I'll try to keep in mind who is looking at the character. In one story idea I have, the POV character is a detective, so he is going to notice her muscular arms and the callouses on her hands that indicate she's a serious martial artist. In another story I did write, the guy noticed her curvacious curves and round breasts and mane of hair flowing down her back, and her green skin which, in his opinion, was a definite showstopper. In yet another story, the fact that the female character was wanted by both the hero and the villain, the latter spending a scene watching her as she prepared dinner for herself and the hero, indicates that she is kind of hot, as well as the villain's thought that, she's kind of hot.
 
 30 Loni Jay, Wed, 19th Oct '11 11:56:42 PM from Australia Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
I remember I ran across I slightly similar problem a while ago - how to describe somebody who the viewpoint character acknowledges is very good-looking, but isn't attracted to in the slightest.

Particularly because I usually don't put much into describing facial features, any comments I included about this person's attractiveness made it seem (to my eyes) like the protagonist was sexually or romantically interested in them.

edited 19th Oct '11 11:59:11 PM by LoniJay

Be not afraid...
 31 Dec, Wed, 19th Oct '11 11:58:27 PM from The Dance Floor
Stayin' Alive
Maybe try describing her features, but have them do more than just emphasize the fact that she's pretty? Listing features isn't usually the best way to convey that a character is attractive, but using her attractive features to emphasize other parts of her character might help make it much more palatable. Like the freckles on toned shoulders and arms might mean she's outside working a lot, or her french manicure and tiny handbag might imply how high-maintenance she is, or her bright and busty clothing might imply that she's boisterous and not afraid of attention. We get to know her, and there's less of a chance people will feel you're just waxing poetic about a character.

Another thing you could try is a good simile/metaphor, but it usually takes a few tries to make up a good one that doesn't sound clunky or cliche.
Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit
Deviantart.
 32 Nightwire, Thu, 20th Oct '11 12:38:29 AM Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Paperclip Curator
Thread Hop: You don't. Does being pretty add anything to the plot? In literature, the readers often doesn't care how good the character look; they want to see her think and act. If you have to describe a character as pretty, do it via another character's inner thought and/or reaction in response to her. Prose is not a visual media, so unless it is an important factor of the plot, knowing whether a character is beautiful or not doesn't add anything to the story.
You see, I used to be an awkward nerd just like you, then I became Electro.
 33 nrjxll, Thu, 20th Oct '11 12:42:10 AM Relationship Status: Not war
It quite easily could be relevant to the plot, though. I know where you're coming from - my physical descriptions tend to be fairly minimalist themselves - but there will probably be times when you'll have to know the answer to this question.

 34 Nightwire, Thu, 20th Oct '11 12:47:17 AM Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Paperclip Curator
I think that the best way to describe a character's appearance would be to give a few minimalist details like body type, hair, eye color, etc. and let the reader's imagination fill in the rest. Readers don't like being ordered by the author: "See, that person is beautiful because I told you so! Accept it as a fact!". Beauty is subjective, after all.

And, as I've said eariler, if a character's beauty is essential to plot and the reader should know about it, it is advisable to do it via another character's comment. That way, it will become that character's opinion, not the author's; the reader would be more likely to accept it.

edited 20th Oct '11 12:55:48 AM by Nightwire

You see, I used to be an awkward nerd just like you, then I became Electro.
"Everyone could see that she was beautiful, but she carried her beauty like a purse which, when left at home, kept men wondering how she would look with a little of this or that. The women, on the other hand, never noticed her beauty, but always trailed their eyes towards her always tasteful footwear."

Meh.

 36 jasonwill 2, Thu, 20th Oct '11 8:40:07 AM from West Virginia
Say that she looks hug-ably rape-ably soft.

Just like the bear in the commercial!
as of the 2nd of Nov. has 6 weeks for a broken collar bone to heal and types 1 handed and slowly
I was thinking of a page I wrote recently where I did not really do anything to describe a gal's appearance, but the fact that this guy was really paying attention to her would probably give people the impression that she is attractive.
 
 38 KSPAM, Thu, 20th Oct '11 9:25:32 PM from The Slaine Pain Train Relationship Status: Sinking with my ship
ALL ABOARD!
[up][up] No. Just no.

One thing I've found also works is that if you must describe their features in detail, try injecting some humor into it (please note, the POV character speaking here is supposed to be that crude):

"Leaning over a map laid out on the store counter was one fine woman. She was tall, about Jeff's height, with the body of a pornstar and the flawless complexion of a model. Her hair was long and black, tied into a ponytail that reached down to the crook of her back. The eyes were amber brown, and although her face was a little harsh, it was the kind of harsh that made you go 'Mistress, give me more!'"
Team? You mean cannon fodder? — neobowman

Goodfae: a mafia web serial
 39 drunkscriblerian, Thu, 20th Oct '11 9:32:20 PM from Castle Geekhaven Relationship Status: In season
Street Writing Man
@OP: Describe the character. Be as honest as you can. That's really all you can do. Trying to "make" an audience find beauty in a character is as foolish as trying to "make" them be sympathetic; in both cases, you're likely to alienate more than titillate.

If I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed.

~Cora M. Strayer~
 40 Mr AHR, Fri, 21st Oct '11 7:43:01 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Nightwire: I have two characters who are very much supposed to be attractive for the plot. One is because that's his power, the other is supposed to hint at something else.

I just say they both have symmetrical faces, and are both meant to be attractive.

Writing scripts take the subtlety out of it.
 41 Nightwire, Fri, 21st Oct '11 11:10:49 PM Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Paperclip Curator
So it's like some kind of Glamour?
You see, I used to be an awkward nerd just like you, then I became Electro.
 42 Jewely J, Sat, 22nd Oct '11 12:47:00 PM from where the food is
The best way to portray a character as pretty is to show other's reactions to her. You cannot guarantee any given person will share the same tastes as you .
"As she walked down the street, heads turned to follow her - male and female alike. Men cat-called, while women fought the urge."

That's how I tell if someone is pretty or handsome.
Winter is coming.
slice of lice
[up]Depending on the context of the whole story, that's probably excessive already.
Forget the tropes until after you're done.
 45 Night, Fri, 28th Oct '11 3:07:15 PM from PSNS Intrepid Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Who you are does not matter.
And really, when the hell was the last time you actually heard someone catcall in public?
"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
If you're a conventionally attractive woman, probably very recently.

Nevertheless, [up][up][up] is indeed excessive, the bit about women fighting the urge is odd, and generally indicates more about the setting than the individual.

edited 28th Oct '11 3:38:25 PM by jewelleddragon

 47 Night, Fri, 28th Oct '11 5:19:54 PM from PSNS Intrepid Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Who you are does not matter.
[up]I actually asked that question of a few and they didn't know, so I'm...not convinced.
"Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other...and rise."
Professional Nerd
Basically, I think the best way to go about it is to allow the reader to disagree with you - let characters think she's attractive, but don't try to establish it as an objective fact. Also, don't beat the reader over the head with it. (There's a reason Twilight annoys the fuck out of most people over thirteen.) Mention is once or twice, maybe a little more in dialogue when appropriate, and then move along.
"If there's a hole, it's a man's job to thrust into it!"
Ryoma Nagare, New Getter Robo
 49 feotakahari, Sun, 30th Oct '11 12:21:45 AM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
Something I sort of hinted at in my earlier post, which nobody else followed up on: it's really, really fun to write characters who have specific fetishes, even if you don't share those fetishes (a character who always goes for redheads, a character who moons over muscular men, a character who's consistently drawn to girls who wear fancy dresses . . .)

edited 30th Oct '11 12:23:44 AM by feotakahari

That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
 50 nrjxll, Sun, 30th Oct '11 1:45:36 AM Relationship Status: Not war
[up]Agree with this. I think it's not so much wrong as tacky to let any fetishes of your own make it into your works (at least in obvious fashion), and I am no fan of Author Appeal. But I definitely think giving your characters certain preferences can work nicely. It doesn't have to be blatant either; perhaps all of Bob's love interests just happen to be redheads.

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