1. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    facial expressions

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Elgaisma, Jan 26, 2011.

    OK I am working on my dialogue beats and rereading my work it is much better but whilst I have body language and movement sorted, facial expressions are pretty much he glared and he grins, smiles, raises an eyebrow etc

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    What are some examples for:

    Happiness
    Anger
    Fear
    Incredulity
    Surprise
    Pain
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty New Member Contributor

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    Imagining writing this for my own particular characters, so some of them cover a few more bases. The guy I'm imagining for "Happiness" is quite innocent, for example. People with different issues will react in different ways. :p Tried to think of several personality types for some.

    Happiness

    "the corner of his mouth twitching with held back laughter"
    "a sparkle of child-like delight in his eyes as he..."

    Anger

    "His face fell blank, but there was a firmness to his mouth, a danger to the look in his eyes that warned me not to push further..." (quiet, teacherly anger)
    "Her mouth fell open, as if she was having trouble drawing in enough breath to get out the yell aimed my way. Her eyebrows jumped together, eyes narrowing..." (just plain fury)
    "Her face flooded with colour, and, eyes blazing with fury, she..." (yeah, probably got issues :p)

    Fear

    "Her eyes were wide as she shrank against me, the smallest whimper in her throat."
    "His mouth was open but nothing came out for a moment, perhaps the words vanished along with the blood from his face..." (both overwhelming horror)
    "Her lower lip trembled as she stood in the doorway, her eyes wide and darting into the dark corners of the room, rimmed with tears that hung from her long lashes..." (kid thinks there's a monster under the bed and comes for a cuddle :p The "dark corners" bit pretty much is all that distinguishes it from sadness)
    "There was a forced manicness to his smile as he stood at the edge of the..." (quick way of showing hysteria :p Usually better to go with a big hearty comment from the character to show they're "not afraid" than to write this one, I've found, just since a comic effect usually helps show the fine balance between laughter and horror the character is going through)

    Incredulity

    "Her eyebrow raised and her lips drew back in a cynical smile, the look in her eyes one more of pity than understanding..."
    "Both his eyebrows shot up, and he bit his lip hard to hold back the laughter..."

    Surprise

    :O <-- I know it's lazy, but really. That's all you have to do. :p

    Pain

    "His eyes squeezed shut for a moment, but when he opened them a smile was forced onto his face..." ("I'm fine! Really!")
    "Her mouth fell open as if in shock, eyes growing wider and wider as she touched the gaping stomach wound, the pain not registering until she saw her own blood on her hands..."

    Actually, for pain, I think a lot of the most blatant wincing description will cover you - the rest is a lot more emotional for a character, and that's what you should be focussing on.



    (That's a fun writing exercise :p)
  3. Spring Gem
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    Spring Gem New Member

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    The Bookshelf Muse blog has an emotion thesaurus. Scroll down to see the list in the sidebar.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    Thanks Spring Gem that is perfect.

    Thanks Mel
  5. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty New Member Contributor

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    Well, even though that link has it all, I still think everyone should have a go anyways. :p You can learn so much more writing it yourself than reading how other people did it.

    Also it's fun.

    And I don't want to be the only one who replied before the handy resource appeared. :p

    But yeah. Writing exercise! Never turn down the opportunity. :D
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    lol plus it would be nice to see more specific facial expressions.

    Body language I can manage except there is to much hand on shoulders and looking in eyes would like to vary them more.
  7. art
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    art Senior Member Contributor

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    I guess there are websites (on psychology etc), you know, where to test your ability to read emotions in others etc they have lots of photos of grumpy, somewhat miffed, despairing faces and so on. Look at the faces and say what you see.

    Better yet, get a copy of Darwin's quite brilliant, The Expression of the Emotions in Animals and Man ...and do the same thing.

    [​IMG]
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    trouble is i have dyspraxia and that makes me mildly autistic i ain't good with facial expressions and judging them. Which is probably why I am missing them in the book - I don't use them in conversations in real life. Kind of hoping to do this textbook style. I kind of need lists of what I can use for certain emotions. Because I genuinely don't see it easily.
  9. art
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    art Senior Member Contributor

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    Ah...I don't think you need to. Find a site (or get the book) where the facial expressions are clearly tagged as 'anger' , 'confusion' etc then simply pick out some of the outstanding physical characteristics of the expressions. The judging has been already done for you.
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    Its the whole describing them I don't seem to be able to do - its hard to explain but to me it looks like a contorted face, or I will see a smile on an angry face. Its something I didn't realise until I had children - have no bother managing personal relationships but when they were playing, I honestly couldn't work out when to intervene and when not to with other children.

    The emotional thesaurus kind of works I can just use it as a guide. Its a list but again more body language.
  11. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty New Member Contributor

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    Actually, you can generally use "contorted" to describe a face once or twice a novel and get away with it, as long as you clarify which negative emotion is effecting it - fear, anger, surprise and pain I'd definitely say you could get away with using that word without going into the particulars. :p Most though, it's about whether the eyes narrow or widen. In primal responses - fear and surprise - the eyes widen because we need to see better. Evolutionary sort of thing. In social, human-constructed things, eyes generally narrow: when you laugh and smile they crinkle up, when you're looking critically at someone, glaring or angry, they narrow. Not a solid rule, but it could work as a basis for you. :)
  12. art
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    art Senior Member Contributor

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    Ok. Sorry I pressed the matter:)

    [​IMG]

    As Reginald turned the corner, he happened upon the monster. In his abject terror, two electrodes erupted from his forehead and hung about his brow..
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    lol its ok its one of the quirks of having what my educational records call clumsy child syndrome :) hard to explain to others.

    That picture is extreme pleasure right ;) ? By contorted to me a face of joy can look contorted how the heck i went for nearly 30 years not notcing i malfunction in this i do not know.
  14. Islander
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    Islander Senior Member Contributor

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    The truth is that, apart from the basic emotions like anger, fear or joy, facial expressions are very ambiguous to everyone. The same facial expression can be interpreted very differently depending on context. For example, people tend to look scary and malevolent in mugshots, but the same expression in a neutral setting just looks... blank. A smile can look like an evil grin, if you expect the person to be evil.

    A lot of the information in facial expressions lies in when and where they are applied. A sideways glance can mean the person is bored, uncomfortable, self-conscious, or any number of things. What it means only becomes clear through context.

    For example, if someone listens to an explanation, glances sideways, then immediately excuses themselves and leaves, it probably means they saw something which caught their attention. If they turn their attention back to the speaker for a moment before excusing themselves, it's more likely they were bored. (When you're bored, your gaze tends to wander in an attempt to find something more interesting to focus on.)

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