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How do you describe someone blushing in writing?

Author: Ingrid

Mar. 07, 2024

118 0 0

Tags: Beauty & Personal Care

Why Do People Blush?

Writers should know their characters’ motivations. Then, readers should be shown the cause of each blush. Occasional flushes, reddening of the cheeks, or flaming faces serve a function. However, overuse of these or any other physiological responses will aggravate readers.

Emotion Beats and Physical Manifestations

Actions speak louder than blushes. A blush could be caused by:

adulation, arousal, embarrassment, fear, insecurity, receiving a compliment, remorse, repressed hatred, shame, shyness

A well-placed gesture or action draws readers into narrative. Here are a few ways to show motivation without a single blush.

parted lips
enlarged pupils
hanging on every word spoken by subject
complimenting the subject of adulation

sparkling eyes
flirtatious dialogue
running tongue over one’s lips
heavy breathing, accompanied by racing pulse

shuffling feet
biting fingernails
fidgeting or picking fluff off one’s clothing

trembling hands
holding one’s breath
accelerated breathing

slumped posture
focusing one’s gaze on floor or toes
fidgeting with jewelry or clothing
clenching bottom lip between one’s teeth

Receiving a compliment
expressing thanks
verbal denial of self-worthiness
flattering the person who bestowed the compliment

frequent swallowing
nausea and/or minimal appetite
looking away from wronged person

Repressed hatred
bared teeth
folded arms
narrowed eyes
lips pressed together in a thin line

stooped shoulders
minimal eye contact
biting one’s fingernails or chewing on pen

bowed head
pinched lips
limp handshake

If you need additional beats, consult a body language dictionary. (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)

When Is a Blush not a Blush?

A protagonist’s face might be red due to fever, sunburn, windburn, an allergic reaction, or a response to external temperature. But this redness wouldn’t be a true blush. Likewise for a protagonist whose face seethes with red, an appropriate phrase to demonstrate anger.

Analyze motivations as you write or edit. Many blushes may be out of place.

Similes and Metaphors Stimulate the Imagination

You could compare the color in a person’s cheeks or face to one of the following.

A to W
an apple, a cardinal, a carnation, a cayenne pepper, a chili pepper, an Elmo doll, fire, flames, ketchup, a ladybug, a lobster, a poppy, raspberries, a rose, a stop sign, strawberries, tabasco sauce, a tomato, a wagon, a watermelon

Find more red objects by searching the internet for things that are red.

Similes usually incorporate as or like:

The toddler rushed toward her mother, her chubby cheeks as red as an Elmo doll. “Mummmy, Mummmy, pwease don’t go.”

When Kristy accused Reynaldo of cheating on her, he pulled at his collar, and his face flared red like the ketchup slathered all over his steak and fries.

Metaphors rely on indirect comparisons. They compare actions or objects that are not normally considered comparable. For instance:

The fire of passion flamed in Elena’s face.

Fire of passion is a tell as well as a metaphor, acceptable if Elena is the POV character. However, anyone interacting with her wouldn’t know her motivation.

It’s Unwise to Make Your POV Character Blush

Pretend you’re embarrassed. Close your eyes and immerse yourself in the situation before reading the next paragraph.

… … …

Back in the real world again?

If you blush, you might feel heat spread throughout your chest and into the roots of your hair, but you won’t see your appearance unless you’re looking into a mirror.

Likewise with your POV character.

Let’s Try a Few Edits

Example 1

When Aaron presented Alicia with the Employee of the Month award, she blushed.

Since Aaron is introduced by just his first name, readers might assume that these two characters have a relationship. But why does Alicia blush?

When Aaron presented Alicia with the Employee of the Month award, she remained speechless.

Alicia is probably speechless because she has no foreknowledge of the award. In context, other reasons might prove valid.

Find thousands of writing tips and word lists in
The Writer’s Lexicon series
and additional resources on my Facebook page.

Example 2

Marian blushed as she stared at Jeremy’s coffee mug. “I’m sorry.”

Why is Marian staring at the mug?

Marian didn’t reciprocate Jeremy’s gaze. “I’m sorry. Give me your mug, and I’ll make you another coffee. Milk. No sugar.”

The second snippet provides a meaningful description. Marian’s dialogue and avoidance of eye contact show that she’s ashamed, maybe even intimidated. We don’t need to stack body language with a blush.

Example 3

Zane ogled Melissa’s tanned legs, and she blushed.

Ogled is a strong verb that suggests a lecherous intent. Why would Melissa blush?

Maybe she doesn’t like Zane or his attitude:

Zane ogled Melissa’s tanned legs. She pressed her lips into a thin white line.

Now, readers will know that Melissa doesn’t approve of Zane’s attention.

Example 4

Shawn blushed when Carrie touched his elbow.

Perhaps Shawn has a secret crush on Carrie?

When Carrie touched Shawn’s elbow, his heart raced.

This approach works if Shawn is the POV character. Blushing could be caused by many emotions. A racing heart, however, is a good indication that Shawn has feelings for Carrie.

Carrie touched Shawn’s elbow. He blushed.

Same situation as before, with a slight change in wording, but no clear POV. Let’s revisit from Carrie’s perspective:

Carrie touched Shawn’s elbow. His heavy breathing stirred the tiny hairs on her neck, sending a shiver into every cell of her body.

Carrie’s response shows that she reciprocates Shawn’s affection. Her reaction is direct, rather than filtering through a phrase such as She felt his heavy breathing stirring the tiny hairs on her neck.

Example 5

Daniel could see Estela blush and fidget with her top button.

Estela’s motivation might be clear in context — insecurity, perhaps? However, could see filters this sentence through Daniel’s sense of sight.

Estela’s face glowed red. She fidgeted with her top button.

Daniel’s name isn’t needed. Since he’s the POV character, readers see through his eyes.

Example 6

Bonnie blushed to herself whenever she thought of William’s washboard abs.

Yes, some authors sprinkle their writing with phrases like blushed to herself. The last two words are redundant. Everyone can see a blush, and who else would Bonnie blush to? Since she’s the POV character, she can’t see herself.

Whenever Bonnie thought of William’s washboard abs, the heat of desire rushed into her face.

For variety, this sentence changes word order. Heat rushes into Bonnie’s face: a show. The words also tell about her motivation.

Example 7

Doug blushed scarlet when Ms. Pringle sent him to the principal’s office. He was embarrassed because he had been caught peeking into the girls’ washroom.

A blush of embarrassment might work here, but we’re trying to eliminate an overused word. Besides, Doug is the POV character, and it’s best not to have him blush, especially when the degree of his blush is depicted as scarlet. He can’t see his own color.

A different approach:

Doug trembled when Ms. Pringle sent him to the principal’s office. Why had he allowed himself to be caught peeking into the girls’ washroom?

Doug’s trembling shows his embarrassment, and the second sentence, posed as a question, plants us in the midst of his internal monologue.

Quick Alternatives for Blush

Note subtle connotations in the following list. Tear-soaked cheeks might glisten red. Slight embarrassment could pinken the face and neck.

Wherever the word red appears, it could be replaced with colors such as:

A to V
apple-red, baby-pink, beet-red, blood-red, candy-red, cherry-red, coral, crimson, cupid-pink, devil-red, flame-red, hydrant-red, kiss-red, mango-pink, peach-pink, pink, scarlet, siren-red, valentine-red

Choose a shade that suits your character’s personality and circumstances.

Verbs and Verb Phrases to Replace Blush

B to F
blaze, blaze red, bloom red, blossom with fire, blossom with red, burn red, color with red, crimson, erupt with red, explode in red, flame, flare red, flash red, flood with red, flush

G to T
gleam red, glisten red, glow red, go red, go red in the face, pinken, radiate red, redden, rubify, seethe with red, shine red, suffuse with red, tinge with red, turn red, turn rosy, turn ruddy

Your Turn

Can you edit away all the blushes?

Exercise 1

In spite of his efforts to control his emotions, Avery blushed crimson when his name was called by Principal Beck. He shuffled to the front of the auditorium and plodded onto the stage, trying to ignore the catcalls and hisses from other students.

Mr. Beck glared down at him. “This is the second time in three weeks. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

Avery blushed. “Um …”

[Uh oh. What has Avery done? We know by the principal’s glare that it’s a no-no. Can you turn this into humor? horror? sci-fi?]

Exercise 2

The buzzing stopped. Kyle’s gaze darted around the room, and he blushed, hoping no one would discover his secret. At least not until __________.

Exercise 3

Madalyn blushed and turned red from the roots of her hair, to her ears, into her generous cleavage. How could she have let this happen again?

[Can Madalyn see her own blushing? What did she allow to happen? Was it something bad? Good?]

Are You Interested in More Word Lists and Writing Tips?

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Find thousands of writing tips and word lists in
The Writer’s Lexicon series
and additional resources on my Facebook page.

Hello, hope you’re doing well! I knowing you have the conflicts for couples and the fighting & making up, but I need help coming up reasons for a petty fight? Like something small they get upset over that isn’t very high stakes as something having to do with money would be.

I do have a few lists like this, but they are more about the bigger issues. So I’ll try to come up with a few little things to fight about for you :)

Conflicts for Couples

Little things to fight about

  • stacking the dishes next to the sink
  • not washing the dishes or putting them in the dishwasher
  • not unloading the dishwasher
  • throwing their clothes on the floor
  • putting their shoes on the stairs so the other one constantly stumbles over them
  • leaving the toothpaste open
  • making themself food and leaving the unused ingredients out in the open
  • forgetting to take out the trash
  • not helping to put away the groceries
  • constantly forgetting to bring things from the supermarket or bringing the wrong thing
  • making them both late all the time
  • being very indecisive when it comes to plans


I hope you like these ideas :)

- Jana

How do you describe someone blushing in writing?

Creative Writing Prompts — Making your characters blush




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