1. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    How to express sympathy

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Stammis, Mar 25, 2016.

    The scene is that there are two friends sitting in a train. Friend #1 stares out the window and the friend #2 asks what's wrong. When Friend #1 explains her concern, friend #2 is suppose to show sympathy in her facial expression, bit I don't know how to word it.

    I've considered; "She made a relaxed smile"
     
  2. AdDIct
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    AdDIct Active Member

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    That doesn't sound very sympathetic to me. "A relaxed smile" to me either makes me think someone is high as a kite, or just generally really laid back. I don't know what the scene is or how much detail you plan to go into but you could potentially use "She smiled reassuringly" or some variation of that.
     
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  3. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    Yeah, reassuringly sounds a lot better, thanks.
     
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  4. AdDIct
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    AdDIct Active Member

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    No problemo mate. Remember when it comes to showing an emotion w/o just saying "sympathetically" well it's both actions and words. Depending on the action the words can have a completely different meaning. So keep that in mind for future scenes.

    ie "Aren't you the greatest?" He said.
    "Aren't you the greatest?" He scoffed, running a hand lazily through his hair.
    "Aren't you the greatest?" He mumbled, eyes trained on his boot scuffing against the floor.

    All the same phrase but because of the action they invoke entirely different emotional responses.
     
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  5. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    This is one of those situations for which the canned adverb advice, to avoid them, comes into play. You should really be looking for some other way to inject that meaning, rather than having the 'reassuringly' just hanging off the end, all limp and floppy.

    Maybe there is no other nice, simple, one or two word way to get across what you want to portray, but then you could explore longer expressions. Does the POV character know that look well? Is it unusual? How does it make them feel?
     
  6. AdDIct
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    AdDIct Active Member

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    This would be a lot easier to help with if we actually had the scene lol.
     
  7. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    True, but it is an embarrassing fanfiction. Unless you know the characters, you won't get it ;)
     
  8. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    You do have a point. I like the idea that she knows her friends compassion and have seen the facial expression before. I will explore that.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    A nitpick: "made a smile" isn't a usual phrasing. "offered a smile" is a possible alternative, or you could throw the smile into a sentence that's mostly doing something else:

    "Can I help?" she asked, with a relaxed smile.
     
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  10. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Hi, Stammis.
    I've sat at my PC like a moron trying to pull my sympathy face and here's what happens:
    Eyebrows pull inwards and down, or lift up slightly (maybe they're just out of control generally).
    Muscles tighten around the eyes (a bit like a wince)
    Bottom lip pushes up.
    Head tilts slightly to the right.

    I'm sure you can google the official facial expression for sympathy, or watch something like Lie to me where they talk about microexpressions in great detail. In the meantime, feel free to borrow my face :p
    Rach
     
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  11. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    Offered a smile... yeah, that is kind of what she is doing actually. She is not smiling because she finds something funny; instead the smile is offered to make her friend feel better.

    Thank you.
     
  12. james82
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    james82 Member

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    Here's an excerpt from my novel that you might find inspiring and a little music to go along
    with it..

    Press PLAY & please READ



    I looked over at Angelo, who was already looking at me. His hands were still on his lock as
    he'd yet to open his locker. His eyes, were focused on my eyes, trying to gauge if there was
    any sympathy there. If I still had a soul after what I'd done. If I still had a heart.
    And I did. My soul was in my throat, and my heart was in my eyes, as I peered back at him
    from across the hall angrily. Not at him, but at myself. He saw that. I know he did.
    And in that moment as we grilled each other from across the hall, it was like we were saying
    to each other at the same time: "We should of been friends, but now, it's too late."
    I was saying it. He was saying it. It was on our faces. It was in our eyes. It was in our hearts.
    "We can never be friends now because of what happened, because of what I did."
    That very thought struck me like gut shot. Damn shame. It was a damn shame that I'd
    befriended Vinny first. That I had a chance to stand up to Vinny and try to prevent what
    had happened but instead I'd participated. Of all the thoughts on coming to a new school,
    I feared if anything, that I would be the one in Angelo's position, but somehow, I'd become
    superior.

     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2016
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  13. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    Who's the main character, and do you go into their thoughts? To show my main character's sympathy, I usually show her thoughts indirectly and/or show it through action. For example (pretending I'm writing your scene):

    Friend #2 POV:
    Poor thing, she didn't deserve that. She deserved a better life, a happier life free of worry. She took Penny's hand and smiled. It was weak, but maybe it would cheer her up.

    Friend #1 POV:
    Charlotte took her hand and smiled. It was a sympathetic smile, meant to cheer her up. It didn't work, but it did make her feel less alone.
     

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