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It seems that all my characters have about three expressions... :( :( :'(

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by WeilderOfTheMonkeyBlade, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. yeah, I've got this feeling that all my characters spend most of their time frowning, smiling or laughing, not doing much else.

    Does anyone else have this feeling???? or is everybody else just to good a writer??? (silly question, we're on mythic scribes, so I think we all know the true answer....)
  2. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I use a lot of emotions, but yeah, I have a limited number of expressions. I guess, for me, it's about conveying things in however many words it takes. Some people go for minimal words, an din that case, there are only like six words for "smiled" and smirked and grinned are two of them. I use both of those a lot more than "smiled" because I believe they convey more. So I only use "smile" if it's a warm sort of smile. A grin signifies that my character finds something amusing or ironic, and a smirk is when they're feeling maybe playful or "I-told-you-so-ish".

    Frowning is a tough one, too. I find that a simple frown is never warranted. If my characters frown, it's thoughtfully or disapprovingly. I try to convey those differences by using secondary connections: "Thorne frowned, his blue eyes showing dull and weary."

    Laughing, I think is a little easier because usually, when people laugh, the reader gets the joke... that something funny just happened. However, "laugh" isn't catch-all for me. I use words like "snicker", "chortle", "giggle", and especially "chuckle". Those, to me fit better in most situations because they're more descriptive.
  3. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    I like to read (and write) characters that do more than the standard facial expressions. Think in the body as a whole. Think in what can a character do that will express or reinforce some emotion.

    Someone tiptoeing is feeling wary, someone striding is determined. Eyes darting from a point, person or object to another indicate nervousness, someone glazing over the landscape is distracted, bored. Tugging at clothing would mean discomfort, so could tucking strands of hair behind the ear. A humming character may feel comfortable or even happy. You got the idea.

    Read the emotion thesaurus, it's really helpful, and observe people in real life, your "visual emotions library" is in need of expansion. Take notice of the other body parts and other emotions of other than joy and the frowning. E.g.: The lips—that are often used to easily convey emotion—can do more than smiling and laughing; they can be bitten, chewed, licked, sucked, pouted, scratched, twisted in a scowl, smacked, covered by a hand, pushed back to bare the teeth...
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I'm in agreement with Nihal.

    I wouldn't be too worried about only using those three for facial expressions, but if that's all you're doing to convey an emotion, then maybe there's a reason for concern. Maybe try a different metric. How often do you use those three expressions? And how much do you depend on those specific words to convey emotion?
  5. I don't exactly use them to convey emotions, that often... When I do that we occasionally venture into the realm of scowling, or grinning (often wolfishly) :)

    I mainly use them in between conversation, I find that it a block of speech goes much better by being broken up, and someone laughing (but only if it appropriate... or if the character is mad. I have a few of them... am writing one at the moment.

    This isn't some major worry of mine, Its not like I'm having a major breakdown over it, I just felt that you guys might be able to help me, and you have, as usual!!!!!! :D

    And Teacup, the emotion thesaurus is great, cheers dude, I'm glad I finished my mocks today, because now I can just read that (and write.... obviously) !!!!!!!!
  6. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    In our reality, we notice facial expressions first. They give us clues regarding someone's mood, thoughts, & emotions. Naturally then, it seems a logical focusing point for such description in writing.

    In my opinion though, I've often found the opposite to be true. In the written word, they can be boring and do not always accurately, and powerfully, convey or invoke emotion.

    Facial expressions can be an effective part of strong, emotional description, but it's only a fraction.

    Body language is such a vast component that when combined with other indicators, can present a more complete, accurate, and vivid picture. Then we have other indicators...changes in skin tone (flushing/blushing, going pale), sounds (breathing, gasping, groaning). Think of all five senses and try to incorporate them into your writing. They are powerful tools to help communicate what your characters are experiencing. Even taste and smell can be used to powerful effect if your willing to flex your creative muscles.

    Also, one aspect that I feel is often overlooked is internal sensation. When describing affectation of a POV character, internal sensation description is, in my opinion, the most powerful.

    Again, all five senses can be considered. Which most likely conveys what the character experiences while remaining consistent in the POV? Meaning, she can't see that twinkle in her own eye. Is the bitter taste of bile rising in her mouth? Does he get nausea thinking about a massacre? Does the skin prickle? What does the character smell? Are they hyper-focused on a smell & does that tell us something about their emotional state? Same with vision. What they focus on can tell us a lot about present experiences. Is the pulse drumming in their ears indicating fear or excitement? Well, that depends on the context, but if written well, it will be clear.

    I read a lot of drafts that are loaded with smirks, smiles, nods...oh nodding heads can be particularly boring...things of this nature are bland and weak. Break free and move beyond what characters see. If you can paint the picture of sensation, mood, & emotion with varied combination of senses, your readers will thank you. They help them experience what the character experiences, living alongside them in your setting. It also staves off boring writing, where the author does all the work by just telling the reader what characters feel.

    Also, when using a tool like The Emotion Thesaurus, don't simply search and copy. Use it as a spark to your imagination. Read about possible descriptors and let that help you think in new ways, ways that enable you to conjure up creative means of expressing feeling and emotion.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2014
    Penpilot likes this.
  7. SM-Dreamer

    SM-Dreamer Troubadour

    I ask myself what expressions/body language/etc I might have in that moment, and use that as a starting point (reminds me of So, You're A Cartoonist? by TomPreston on deviantART, actually). Although I admit to having too many nods, grins, smirks, smiles, frowns in my first draft, especially when I'm just using it as a placeholder because I want to remember the general emotion, but want to move on.

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