Laughter is a powerful tool in storytelling that can help reveal character traits, show relationships, and set the mood.
Here’s how to describe laughter in writing:
Describe laughter in writing by considering its sound, volume, pitch, duration, associated body language, and the situation causing it. Also, note its emotional and physical impact, the character’s unique laughter quirks, and the type of laughter.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to describe laughter in writing.
Elements You Need To Know to Describe Laughter in Writing
Here are the different elements of laughter you can describe in writing:
- Body language
- Emotional impact
- Physical impact
- Individual quirks
- Type of laughter
- Associated facial expressions
- Follow-up actions
Now let’s dive into these elements.
1. Turn the Volume Up (or Down)
One of the first ways you can convey laughter is through its volume.
A character’s laughter can be as quiet as a whisper or as loud as a booming cannon.
When your character laughs softly, it might indicate shyness, subtlety, or a moment of private joy.
Loud laughter, on the other hand, might suggest a boisterous or outgoing personality, or an inability to control their amusement.
Here’s an example: Her laughter echoed through the cavernous hall, a boisterous sound that seemed to bounce off the stone walls.
2. The Soundtrack of Chuckles
The sound of laughter can reveal a lot about a character’s personality and their current emotional state.
You could describe the sound as being musical, like tinkling bells or a lyrical melody.
Or perhaps it’s a harsh, grating sound that grinds on the nerves of others.
For instance: His laugh was a grating noise, like the screech of rusted machinery. It sent chills down her spine every time.
3. Pace Yourself
The pace of laughter can also tell a tale.
Fast laughter might suggest nervousness or excitement, while slow laughter could indicate confidence or perhaps a touch of sarcasm.
Here’s a way to use pace: She laughed slowly, each chuckle dripping with so much sarcasm that it practically dripped onto the floor.
4. Frequent Flyers
How often a character laughs could say a lot about their outlook on life or their current mood.
A character who laughs often may be lighthearted and optimistic, while one who seldom laughs might be more serious or reserved.
Take this example: He hardly ever laughed, so when he did, the sound was surprising – a light, airy chuckle that was as rare as it was heartwarming.
5. Tone it Up
The tone of someone’s laughter can provide insight into their sincerity.
A genuine, warm laugh can make a character more likable, while a cold, mocking laugh might reveal a villainous streak.
Example: There was a cruel undertone to her laughter, a coldness that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
6. The Body Language Ballet
The physical movements accompanying laughter can provide a lot of insight into a character’s feelings.
A character could double over with laughter, slap their knee in amusement, or cover their mouth in a moment of surprised delight.
Take a look at this example: She doubled over with laughter, holding her sides as if the hilarity might cause her to burst.
7. Context Is King
Always remember to consider the context in which the laughter occurs.
The same laughter could mean different things in different situations.
Laughter during a serious conversation, for instance, might indicate discomfort or a defense mechanism.
Here’s an example: Despite the seriousness of the situation, he couldn’t help but laugh – a nervous, high-pitched titter that echoed awkwardly around the room.
8. The Emotional Impact
Laughter can have various emotional impacts on the character who is laughing or on others in the scene.
Laughter can be infectious and lift the mood of everyone present, or it can be unsettling or irritating.
Check out this example: His deep, infectious laughter filled the room, and soon everyone was laughing along with him, the earlier tension forgotten.
9. The Physical Impact
Physical descriptions can also enhance the effect of laughter.
Your characters might end up with tears streaming down their faces, barely able to breathe, or clutching their sides with the exertion.
Consider this example: Her laughter was so intense that tears streamed down her face, and she gasped for breath between each bout of mirth.
10. The Long and Short of it
The duration of laughter can also add to its description.
A brief, fleeting laugh might suggest embarrassment or disinterest, while a long-lasting laugh may show true amusement or joy.
Take this for example: Her laughter was short-lived, a brief flutter of mirth before her face fell back into its usual stoic expression.
Consider the texture of the laughter.
It could be described as smooth, rough, ragged, or hollow, among other adjectives.
This not only enhances the readers’ mental image but can also imply certain things about a character’s emotional state.
Here’s an example: His laugh was rough, jagged around the edges like someone had taken sandpaper to it – a raw sound that spoke of hard times and pain buried deep.
12. Aftermath Attractions
Consider the after-effects of laughter.
Does the character have a flushed face? Are they wiping away tears of mirth? Do they have to catch their breath?
Here’s an example: After a good round of hearty laughter, she wiped her eyes, her cheeks flushed with the exertion, a satisfied sigh escaping her lips.
13. The Quirky Quirk
Unique laughter quirks can make a character stand out and add depth to their personality.
Perhaps one character snorts when they laugh, or another always covers their mouth in embarrassment.
These tiny details can make your characters more real and relatable.
Consider this example: Every time she laughed, she would involuntarily snort at the end of it, a quirky habit that only made her more endearing to him.
14. Laughter Type Typology
Identify the type of laughter.
Is it a giggle? A chuckle? A roaring laugh or a snicker? Each type of laugh can convey different emotions or character traits.
For instance: His response was a low chuckle, a deep rumbling sound that conveyed his amusement without words.
15. The Facial Feat
Associated facial expressions can enhance the description of laughter.
A wide grin, sparkling eyes, or crinkling at the corners of the eyes can make the laughter seem more vivid and genuine.
Here’s an example: His eyes crinkled at the corners as he laughed, a wide grin spreading across his face.
16. Situation Station
What situation caused the laughter? Describing this can provide context and make the scene more relatable to the reader.
It could be a joke, a funny incident, or perhaps a moment of shared history between characters.
Consider this example: The old anecdote brought forth a wave of laughter from them, a moment of shared history that bound them together.
17. The Echo Effect
An echo can add a dramatic effect to laughter, particularly in suspense or horror scenes.
The sound of laughter echoing around a room or off the walls of a canyon can create a vivid image in the reader’s mind.
For instance: His cruel laughter echoed through the desolate canyon, a chilling sound that seemed to reverberate endlessly.
18. Purposeful Punctuations
The purpose of laughter in the story can vary.
It could be a way to break tension, show a character’s disdain, or express joy.
By indicating the purpose of the laughter, you can guide the reader’s perception of the scene.
Here’s an example: Her light-hearted laughter served to break the tension in the room, a welcome relief from the heated argument.
19. Breathe, Don’t Forget to Breathe
Laughter can often leave a character breathless, especially after a good long laugh.
Describing this can add a realistic touch to the scene and demonstrate the intensity of the character’s laughter.
Take this for example: He laughed so hard that he had to gasp for air, his lungs straining as he tried to regain his breath.
20. The Follow-up Actions
What does a character do after they finish laughing? Do they wipe their eyes? Do they take a moment to catch their breath?
Or perhaps they simply return to their previous task with a smile still on their face.
Consider this example: After the laughter subsided, she wiped her eyes and picked up the book she had dropped, a residual grin still playing on her lips.
21. Environmental Echoes
Lastly, don’t forget to include the environment in your description.
Does the laughter fill the room? Does it get carried away by the wind?
Or perhaps it gets absorbed into the silence of the surroundings.
Here’s a fitting example: His laughter filled the cozy room, wrapping around the old wooden furniture and bouncing off the rustic walls, adding warmth to the chilly winter night.
How to Describe a Giggle
A giggle is a light, often high-pitched, form of laughter that can be used to express various emotions.
To describe a giggle effectively, consider the following:
- Sound and Volume – A giggle is usually soft and light. You could describe it as a bubbling sound, a whisper of laughter, or a melody that dances on the air.
- Duration – Giggles are often short and quick, and they can come in rapid succession. You might say, “Her giggles came in quick bursts, like bubbles of joy popping in the air.”
- Body Language – Giggles can often cause a character to cover their mouth, lower their head, or blush.
- Emotional Impact – Giggles can indicate embarrassment, amusement, or shyness. They can be contagious, lightening the mood or adding a touch of playfulness to the scene.
For example, you might write: Her giggles filled the room, a soft, delightful sound that was as infectious as it was heartwarming. She covered her mouth in an attempt to suppress them, her cheeks blooming into a rosy hue.
Words to Describe Laughter (30 Words)
If you want to know how to describe laughter in writing, you’re going to need the right words.
Check out this list of laughter-related words:
Phrases to Describe Laughter
Now let’s look at phrases you can use to describe laughter in writing:
- Roared with laughter
- Giggled uncontrollably
- Laughed until tears streamed down their face
- Chuckled under their breath
- Howled with laughter
- Let out a peal of laughter
- Broke into gales of laughter
- Snickered in amusement
- Tittered nervously
- Laughed uproariously
- Cackled with glee
- Burst into laughter
- Dissolved into laughter
- Convulsed with laughter
- Shook with laughter
- Doubled over with laughter
- Let out a belly laugh
- Cracked up laughing
- Snorted with laughter
- Released a hearty guffaw
- Giggled like a schoolgirl
- Chuckled at the joke
- Laughed heartily
- Fell about laughing
- Laughed till they could hardly breathe
- Let out a whoop of laughter
- Chortled in delight
- Sniggered behind their hand
- Had a good belly shake from laughing
- Let out a yelp of laughter
Here is a good video on how to describe laughter in writing:
Final Thoughts: How to Describe Laughter in Writing
Ultimately, the way you describe laughter in your stories and writing depends on your personality, word choice, story, theme, and many other factors.
Before you go, take a look at our other writing guides below.