Friday, September 28, 2012

Expressions (Part 1)

Last night, I was slaving the hours away editing, when I realized I needed a better way for Altair to express his emotions. Over and over again, I use "furrows his brow" or "glances down at the ground". It get's so repetitive.

So, I looked up "nonverbal communication." I learned so many cool new things! There's quite a lot of science that goes into human behavior and it's fascinating!

Facial Expression

They're responsible for a lot of nonverbal communication. Think about how much you can tell about a person by seeing their expression. According to Wikipedia (search key: facial expression), there are seven universally recognized expressions. These are: fear, surprise, anger, contempt, disgust, happiness and sadness.

Here's a link to a list with 100 facial expressions. Though describing them is definitely more difficult than naming them.

But facial expressions aren't the only type of nonverbal communication. Another is gestures.


There's more to gestures than waving, or pointing. When you really think about it, there are tons of them that a person makes every day without noticing! They allow people to communicate emotions and feelings alongside verbal communication.

For a list of gestures, click the link.


This is another type of nonverbal communication. It refers to personal space, and relates to the comfort a person feels with someone a certain distance away from them.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

If a person you know well enters your personal space, you might smile, or reach out to hug them. Coming from them, the entering of your personal space is a sign of friendliness. Something you welcome.

But if someone you don't know well enters your personal space, you'll probably feel much less comfortable. If it's someone you have a crush on, your heart-rate can go up. You tend to blink faster when your nervous.

If the person entering your personal space is someone you despise, then entering your personal space can be considered a threat.

Reading a person's feelings depends a lot on nonverbal communication. But my problem remains... what if a person is trying to fake certain emotions? And what if they're good at it?

Anyway, this post could be really long if I tried to tell you about other forms of expression today. But I'll be back on Monday :)

Have a great weekend!


My sister Alyssa is competing in a skating competition tomorrow. Please head over to her blog and wish her luck!


Anonymous said...

This is one of the (many) things I'm struggling with as a new writer. We all use countless nonverbal expressions and gestures but they're done so instinctively that it's difficult to describe them or place them in context (for me, at least) I'm definitely bookmarking this post. Thanks for all the info!

Elisabeth Kauffman said...

Isn't that cool? What I find fascinating, too, is that the chart with personal space, etc., on it varies from culture to culture as well. People are so complex! And you're right, describing their non-verbal expressions is HARD!

Esther Spurrill-Jones said...

Thanks for the links. Very informative post. I've added it to my "Links" page, and I look forward to Monday's post. :)

Ginger said...

Thanks so much for this post! I am also writing a novel, and have creased character's foreheads/furrowed brows too many times.. Thanks again!

Sharon Souter said...

This is a great post (and not just for writers). I really enjoyed the bit on Proxemics.

russell1200 said...

Have him bank his head against the wall. That's usually pretty clear as to its meaning.

Shoulders slump in despair.


Hmmm...I'll have to think of some other things my family

Patrick Stahl said...

Sometimes you can convey emotion through dialogue just as well as description. It all depends upon your pacing though. Sometimes you want the extra description, other times you don't.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Very good points, the circumference of your personal space can also be culturally influenced, even differing between country/city living.

You've got my mind buzzing now :)

sjp said...

I never really consciously thought about that personal space point before, great tip!

Beth said...

This is great information! Thanks for posting!!

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