07 December 2007

advanced techniques

Agent Nathan wrote something interesting in his blog yesterday: "descriptions of facial expressions really only thinly veiled ways of telling the reader what emotion the character is feeling. Unique gestures, dialogue and actions tend to be much more interesting ways of describing the way someone is feeling and go further toward creating interesting characters. Emotions and facial expressions are universal -- how people deal with emotions and express those emotions are unique."

To be honest, I'm pretty happy if authors submitting to Electric Spec do describe facial expressions, rather than actually telling, e.g. "The Elf Queen was sad." But Agent Nathan is correct--this is only one step removed from telling.
Good writers are constantly learning and improving their work. Can you convey emotion without telling and without facial expressions? Show us your unique characters and their emotions!


Anonymous said...

I view facial expressions as akin to "s/he said". He smiled, he grinned, he frowned, his brow creased--plain language gets the point across and serves as a dialogue tag. I do believe he was referring to the featured rejected pages--sometimes elaborating on facial expressions is like "he exclaimed" or "he scolded".

I admit I thought of you when I read that. :)

David E. Hughes said...

I'm with Nathan on this one. Facial expressions should not call attention to themselves, and I find it especially annoying when they are used as verbs in an unconventional way (i.e. "frowned her irritation."). I also prefer gestures to facial expressions, but even those can be challenging (I see lots of jaw/fist clenching, sighning, and sholder slumping). Good dialogue can also often substitute for facial expressions.

I find facial expressions one of the most difficult aspects of my writing.