‘he was MASSIVE…6’5…230lbs AT LEAST… #protip

Okay, so the nurse has had enough.

I know body types. Screw me. Sue me. Whatever.

Some of the best writing advice I ever got didn’t come from a writer. It came from a reader who had a husband in the military. She told me…

People don’t want to know how the clock works.  They just want to know that it works.

So…what does this mean? It’s simple. Really. Don’t get too technical.

I’m reading/listening to a book and it’s good, but I keep having to quit because the main character is a doctor and I kid you not…every time the character takes a Tylenol, she calls it an ‘analgesic’.  Nobody in medicine calls it an analgesic when we take it.  To avoid copyright issues with Tylenol in writing, we might call it acetamenophen, or with Motrin, ibuprofen. With documentation, yes, we’ll use the generic name…again, acetamenophen or ibuprofen.

But an analgesic? No. I kid you not, I haven’t used that term used outside of educational learning since I was in nursing twenty years ago.

If you get to technical or too indepth, you run the risk of throwing people out of the book.

So…back to that…he was massive 6’5, 230 lbs, at least.

I’ve read this description–or variations of–so many times and it always throws me out of the story.


Well…because massive.

It makes me think of the Hulk.  As in Hulk Hogan who stands 6’7 and weighs 300lbs.

It doesn’t really even make me think of Dwayne Johnson, unless we’re looking at his role as Hercules. He’s 6’5 and while he’s solid, he’s proportionate.  Actors drop and gain weight for their roles although from what I can tell, when he was at his largest/heaviest, it was for Hercules, when he weighed 260. See bodybuilding.com

Dwayne Johnson | Hercules

Then we have Chris Hemsworth. Again solid, but proportionate. He packed on muscle for the role several times over.

Thor | Image Bodybuilding.com

Chris Hemsworth as Thor at 6’3, weighs in at 215. (see Bodybuilding.com)

Dwayne Johnson and Chris Hemsworth are solid guys, muscular through and through, absolutely. The stats given are pretty representative of that body type. But do I seem them as massive?

DJ on a regular basis might fit the 6’5 250 cut off for what some call massive, but even at his largest (from what I can tell) in Hercules, he just topped at 260 and still managed to look more solid than massive. This is the thing with stating outright numers and then a subjective statement–massive.

Then again, I’ve seen people on the scale who weight in 215…or 260…and are much shorter and larger. But it’s not muscle that’s carrying the weight. See, muscle weighs a lot.  So, it’s going to be heavy. So when a big guy –as in a muscled–weighs in at 250, 260 and stands some inches on over 6 foot, it’s believable. That’s why a guy like Michael Phelps can be well over six feet and weigh over 200 but still be skinny.

And here is where writers mess up.

If you try to get too specific?

Those in the medical field (like me and oh, so…a few million others) you get us to figuring.  I start seeing things like in my head.  You call a six foot five guy muscled and you give him a weight without really understanding body types–and a lot of writers don’t get body types.

This is what happens.

He was six foot five and weighed well over two hundred pounds, built like a brick shithouse.


Are we talking THIS
Are we talking THIS | Alain Bernard. 6’5, weighing in at 200?


OR ARE WE TALKING THIS? Gabe Carimi, 6’7, weighing in at over 300?

What’s the difference, you might ask? Well, somebody who knows body type is going to get it.  It’s a few inches…and over a hundred pounds. The difference? Well, to start, one is a football player, the other is a swimmer. Swimmers are long, lean muscle.  The other guy plays football. Take a guess at which one.

Alain Bernard is 6’5 and weighs 200 lbs.  Gabe Carimi is 6’7 and weighs 330.

I’d personally call Carimi massive, but Bernard is closer in weight to what I’ve seen described in books on a regular basis.

It’s easy enough to see which one is which when you are looking.

But when you spend half your life weighing people, of all sizes, you get a decent feel for what is well…massive, whether it’s athletically massive or not.

So…to all the writers all there, I’d like to offer the same advice I received. Readers don’t want to know how the clock works.  They just want to know that it works.  Call him big. Give his height. Call him lean and muscled, or big and muscled or whatever.

But if you’re going to peg his height and his weight? Then I’d recommend you learn more about body types. Start by visiting this link…Writerups.org, height and weight values for superheroes.

Whether or not you are writing a superhero.  If you are writing a solid guy, make sure he fits the definition of solid…not lean.

Things like this make the reader pause, if she’s in the know.  And you’d be surprised how many of your readers are in the know.

Be it the medical field. The athletic field. Or even the ‘we pay attention to the WWE field or any other kind of field’. And when we see

He was six foot five and weighed over two hundred pounds…AT LEAST…we’re going to scratch our heads and wonder.

Are you talking…

Are we talking THIS
THIS | Alain Bernard

Know your body types. It’s part of the writing. 😉

Images from Bodybuilding.com and Writerups.com




3 Replies to “‘he was MASSIVE…6’5…230lbs AT LEAST… #protip”

  1. Interesting take. I really never think about it when I read, but it’s fascinating broken down like that. I like the look of that swimmer … !

  2. Thank you!!! I’m a writer but I was an avid reader first. Every time someone is described as ‘huge’ at 6’1″ and 200 pounds, I’m like… wait. My hubby is 5’10”, 240, and he’s not what I’d call HUGE. Instead, I enjoy when writers allude to hugeness but then give examples, such as, ‘She was startled to realize that his shoulders were nearly as wide as the door and that he had to duck to enter the room’. THAT’S massive/huge. Then again, I’m 5’1″ so lots of things look bigger to me than they are in reality. 😉 But you’re absolutely right… just describe the body type and move on. Don’t give a weight because the moment you do, that starts a round of comparisons within our real lives, and face it… who wants to be thrown out of a story like that? 😉

  3. Thank you! I hate it when a description like that throws me out of the flow of the story. It really affects me negatively for the rest of the story. I end up looking for other things that have a certain level of “wrongness”. I can’t help myself!

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