How to describe a beautiful woman in your writing

One thing I struggle with and devote an inordinate amount of time to, is the description of beautiful woman in my fiction. How do I convey to my readers that one of my characters is in love?

For thousands of years writers have struggled with love and romance in writing. It is one of the most visited themes. Love interests are exciting and necessary. Necessary because it is real. People fall in love, falling in love is a major event in any persons life.

Helen of Troy is one of the most beautiful women in literature. She was described in the 1600’s by Christopher Marlowe:

“Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium”

This is a powerful way to describe a persons beauty without actually describing them. Could a woman be so beautiful that the Navy is launched and a city destroyed?

J D Salinger described a woman in the following way:

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”

So it is not necessary to gush over someones nose or eyes or to describe their face at all.

“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”

― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

To achieve an effect in literature it is necessary only to create a feeling in the reader. You do not have to hammer or repeat each point. You are not drilling out a cavity you are planting a seed. All these descriptions are powerful and give the readers hints so they create the appropriate images,

I will leave with W B Yeats. He is hoping his daughter will grow up to be a wonderful person. He does so with precision and lyrical majesty:

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.

– A prayer for my daughter

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