For a story I'm writing, I sometimes have issues with describing movement, more specifically when the characters are not standing upright. More specifically for following situations:

  • A character is on its knees and moves to another spot (I don't know if I can use crawling, as that is usually on hands and knees, and the character explicitely doesn't use his hands)
  • Everything that has to do with characters lying down and moving from one spot to the other (again not crawling). I found words like shuffling or shifting, I don't know if this is common use language?
  • Specifically a character lying down in bed on it's side. Then she lifts her body and moves backwards (towards the headrest) a little bit.

I'm sorry for the sometimes weird wording, I hope you understand what I'm going for. Any help is appreciated, I'm a bit scared I'm using the word "moved" too much or wrongly in my story right now.

  • 1
    A character is on "their" knees (the singular their representing "his or her"). A character lying on "their/his or her" side. Characters, even imaginary ones, are still people.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 18:19
  • The one in bed wriggled to another position. Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 18:52
  • Or possibly squirmed Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 18:54
  • 1
    It's ok for the the kneeling one to shuffle, but shift is a bit vague. Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 18:56
  • 1
    I don't see how you can move on bended knee(s) without crawling.....
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


You ask for "common in the language" but none of these movements are common, so the description of them won't be common either.

For the first one, crawled is probably fine but if you want to explictly exclude hands then "walked on their knees"

For the movement when lying down, again it is very rare to want to descibe this. It depends on the nature of the motion: wriggle, slide or roll all seem possible ways to move while lying down.

Similarly, the last movement, while it might be very common is too trivial to be mentioned. She "wriggled up the bed" she "inched closer to the headboard"

You'll probably need a phrase for each of these.

  • It is very common to move closer to a headboard in a bed.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 20:28
  • 1
    yes, but its totally trivial. It is very rare to need to descibe this motion. But if you did you'd just say "move closer to the headboard". Yet, I sense that this isn't what the OP wants
    – James K
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 20:42
  • I'm writing in a very descriptive style, so even describing the movements is important. But thanks for the alternative wordings, these help out a lot! Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 20:57
  • I don't think it is rare at all. I am always saying to my other half, why don't you scooch closer to the headboard? And that motion of using your shoulders to move up the bed on your back closer to the top of the bed is scooch up. People also use it to reach, say, a light near a bed.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 22:21

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