Monday, October 1, 2012

Expressions (Part 2)

On Friday, I was having multiple issues with how to show certain expressions without saying the same thing over and over again to describe it. Like "she smiled" to show she was happy. Or "he frowned" to show he was mad.

Once I've used those so many times, it becomes a word that doesn't mean much to the reader. I find that when I'm reading books, the words "he said" are nearly invisible to me.

So how do we make words visible? Well, they have to be different than what the reader is used to. By using creative ways to describe simple expressions, the reader is engaged.

Anyway, here are some other forms of nonverbal communication that may (or may not) help to describe/show your characters emotions.


Despite being based on a persons tone of voice, pitch, volume and intonation, paralanguage is considered a form of nonverbal communication. Paralanguage is important for reading people's emotions, but it can also be misleading.

As you know, people can consciously change their tone of voice to convey an emotion they're not feeling.

Ever spoken patiently when you're actually really angry? What about calmly when you're really excited?

The great thing about paralanguage is that it doesn't necessarily convey the emotion your characters are actually feeling, but it can show what your characters want others to think they're feeling.

Body Language

I guess this one could have to do with all nonverbal communication. After all, you use body language for all forms of nonverbal communication. Yet I consider this one really important.

You can do a lot of showing through body language.

If Liam (supporting characters) is listening to Jaina (my MC), but is deeply hurt by her words, he may grit his teeth in angry retaliation, or clench his fists, yet only make the softest of replies. It shows the difference between what he's feeling, and what he's choosing to convey.

Eye Contact

This one is my favorite. Maybe because the simple act of a glance can say so much with the slightest movement of your eyes.

Eye contact can indicate who the leader in a situation is. In many cultures, it's respectful to not make eye contact with a superior.

Prolonged eye contact tends to make people nervous, especially if it's with someone they don't know well. It can be considered a threat or as a way to show someone that they're interested in them.

It can convey emotions you may not intend to show. Eyes can tell the truth while everything else about a character lies. I think as far as my characters go, the eyes are truly the window to the soul.

I really hope all of this helped! And if you already knew it, I hope it was a good refresher :)

Happy Monday!



Esther Spurrill-Jones said...

Thank you for these posts. I've added links to both from my "Links" page on my blog. I will definitely come back here while writing emotions.

Justine Dell said...

Oh my editor loves to remind me of this when we go through my stuffs. I like to say "eyes"....a lot. ;-)


running4him said...

Great post!! Thanks for the info))

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