How to Describe Hands for More Realistic Characters

If you want to create more realistic characters, learn how hands can be a good place to start.
Table of Contents

When you're writing a story, it's important to make your characters feel real for your readers. One way to do this is to give them realistic hands. Hands can tell a lot about a person–their age, occupation, and even their personality.

In this article, we will discuss ways to describe hands in order to create more believable characters.

Why are a character's hands so important to describe?

A character's hands are often one of the first things that people notice about them. They can be a window into their soul, so to speak. By describing your character's hands in detail, you can give your readers a better sense of who they are.

Think about it–when you meet someone for the first time, you probably notice their hands. Are they shaking your hand with a firm grip? Do they have smooth hands or rough hands? Are their nails well-manicured or are they bitten down to the nub? All of these details can say a lot about a person.

How do you describe hands?

Hands can encompass a wide range of descriptions, but here are five ways to get you started:

1. Size and Shape

The first way to describe hands is by their shape. Are they long and slender, or short and stubby? Again, what does this say about the person?

Words to describe size and shape:  long, slender, short, stubby, chubby, bony, sausage-like, spindly, thin, thick

2. Skin Texture and Color

The second way is to look at the skin. Is it smooth or wrinkled? Soft or calloused? What color is it?  Is it covered in freckles or birthmarks?

Words to describe skin texture and color:  smooth, wrinkled, soft, calloused, milky, freckled, pale, tan, dry, oil, scarred, rough, cracked, veined, dirty, yellow

3. Fingernails

The third way to describe hands is by looking at the nails. Are they well-manicured or chipped and broken? Long or short? Do they have polish on them or not? What color is the polish?

Words to describe nails: well-manicured, chipped, broken, long, short, polished, unpolished, clear, pink, blue, clean, chewed

4. Rings and Other Jewelry

The fourth way to describe hands is by looking at any jewelry they might be wearing. Rings, bracelets, and watches can all say a lot about a person's style and personality.

Words to describe rings and other jewelry: flashy, gaudy, understated, simple, elegant, sophisticated

5. Gestures

The final way to describe hands is by looking at how they move. Are they always fidgeting? Do they gesture a lot when they talk? Are they quick or slow movements?

Words to describe gestures: fidgety, expressive, quick, slow, fluid, jerky, awkward, graceful, arthritic

Parts of the Hand

There are many different parts of the hand that you can describe. Here are the basics:

Parts of the Human Hand | How to Describe Hands
  1. Palm
  2. Back of the hand
  3. Thumb
  4. Index finger/Forefinger
  5. Middle finger
  6. Ring finger
  7. Pinky
  8. Nails
  9. Cuticles
  10. Wrist
  11. Knuckles
  12. Phalanges

What can you convey when describing a character's hands?

Reveal their emotional states

Your hands tell everything about your emotions and reveal how you're feeling at the moment. I call them your emotional barometer.
— body-language expert Blanca Cobb, PsyD

Hands can reveal a lot about what emotional state your character is in.  Are they anxious? Nervous? Angry? Sad? By describing their hands, you can give your readers a better sense of how they're feeling.

For example,  if your character is nervous, you might describe their hands as follows: "Her hands were shaking slightly and she was wringing them together."

Reveal their occupation

The type of work your character does can also be revealed through their hands. Are they a doctor? A construction worker? A musician? All of these occupations will have different effects on the hands.

For example, if someone's hands are calloused or have nicks and cuts, that can tell you they work with their hands a lot. Their occupation could be a carpenter or handyman.

Give clues about their age

Age is another thing that can be revealed through hands. Younger people tend to have softer, smoother hands, while older people often have more wrinkles and age spots.

Provide insight into their personality

Hands can provide insight into a person's personality. For example, someone with well-manicured hands might be seen as more put-together and together. Meanwhile, someone with chipped nails and rough hands might be seen as more carefree.

Reveal their past and background

Hands can also reveal a character's backstory. For example, someone who has scars on their hands might have been in an accident or they might have had to do manual labor for a long time.

Conclusion

Hands writing is an important part of creating believable characters. By taking the time to describe your character's hands in detail, you can give your readers a better sense of who they are and what they're like.

[.article-cta]Read this article on How to Write Character Descriptions.[.article-cta]

Kevin from StoryFlint

Hello friends! I'm Kevin, the creator of StoryFlint.

I love the science of storytelling and learning how to create compelling characters, plots, themes and worlds.

I'm here to help you organize and visualize your story to make it the best it can be!

More about me

You Might Like This

Character Profile
Free
Notion Worksheet or PDF
A worksheet for building the important things about a character. Learn how to create a character that actually matters to your story.
View All Notion Templates

You Might Like This

Keep Reading

How to Write Character Mannerisms

While subtle, mannerisms can reveal your character’s personality traits and backstory. Here is how you can incorporate them into your story without overdoing it.

How to Create Powerful Character Motivations

Learn about character motivations and discover how they can help you create compelling, dynamic characters.

How to Develop a Character

Learn what it takes to create fully developed characters that will engage readers and help your story unfold in the most interesting way possible.

View All Articles
Character Profile
Character Profile
Notion Worksheet or PDF