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  1. StoryForest

    StoryForest Banned

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    Describing a "skeptical look"

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by StoryForest, Jul 15, 2019.

    Hi, I want to say that John looked at his instructor skeptically and what came out of my typing was this:

    John gave his instructor a look that was highly skeptical.

    Does the line make sense? "John gave his instructor a look" makes sense, but does, "a look that was skeptical" make sense gramatically? I assume throwing in "highly" doesn't change anything in terms of grammar, is that correct? I know it's not the most creative way to say it, but sometimes words just come out of my head like that and I'm always worried that not only is it not the most creative sentence but also an incorrect sentence.

    As always, if anybody has a better way to describe a "skeptic look" (which I'm sure there are a million other ways) and would like to share, I'd love to read and learn from it!
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
  2. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Contributor Contributor

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    The instructor, a huge hulking man with a rippling torso, leant in and whispered, 'You think you can smell what The Rock is cooking. But it wasn't me. It was the dog.'
    John twisted to face him, raising an eyebrow. 'You dirty bastard'.
     
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  3. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Some people would just say:

    John looked at his instructor skeptically.
     
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  4. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    If somebody you're speaking to seems skeptical about what you've just said or done, how would you figure that out? Unless they say, "I am skeptical,' you will be picking up clues from a combination of their facial expression, body language, timing and whatever words they actually do say. If you can create this scenario in the reader's mind, you won't need to mention 'skeptical' at all. (The difference between 'showing' and 'telling.') Give the readers a few pertinent clues and let them decide whether John is skeptical or not.
     
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  5. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I agree.

    But don't you think that there is room here for just saying "skeptical"? When someone rolls their eyes at me and huffs when I tell them unironically that space is fake, or that I won a fist fight with four men, or that my girlfriend goes to another school, I don't necessarily identify consciously all the different cues from the body language. I just "know" they are being skeptical. The whole thing is wrapped up in a single instantaneous feeling.

    1.

    "Space is fake," said Tom.

    John regarded him skeptically.

    2.

    "Space is fake," said Tom.

    John rolled his eyes.

    This seems to work because rolling your eyes is a classic, even cliche, skeptical look.

    3.

    "Your mom is coming to pick you up early," said Tom.

    John regarded him skeptically.

    4.

    "Your mom is coming to pick you up early," said Tom.

    John rolled his eyes.

    So, is John skeptical, or is John irritated?

    I guess you could say that "good writing" would make that clear, but would it? I feel like people disagree about the meanings of these things all the time. But we don't usually feel ambivallent about the looks people give us in real life. Even if we "mistake a nod for approval" (A Perfect Circle lyric) we don't usually feel unsure about the meaning of the nod. At least I don't.

    When a writer says: John regarded him skeptically.

    I feel like I am being shown, not told, because I instantly fill in the image of the skeptical look as I imagine it. There is no question to the meaning, unless I don't know what a skeptical look looks like.
     
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  6. talltale

    talltale Member

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    (an example without using an adverb)

    John gave his instructor an incredulous look.
     
  7. DPena

    DPena Member

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    John voiced his opinions. "I'm looking at you now, and to be frank, I'm quite skeptical."

    I'm just assuming John has a monocle and a handlebar mustache.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, yeah, of course the word itself can be used. It's a good word, and sometimes it's best to just pick the most economical way to convey the issue.

    It's just that the OP was asking for a way to describe a 'skeptic look.' I'd say the best way to do that is envision a scenario where somebody is being skeptical, then describe what you 'see' so the reader can come to the same conclusion.
     
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  9. StoryForest

    StoryForest Banned

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    Thank you, Everyone! This is very helpful. I love all the alterations everyone proposed. These are all unique in their own way and gave me a number of avenues to explore.

    It’s also great to see the value of both methods – just saying “skeptical” and expressing it through actions (showing not telling). I struggle a bit with that sometimes in deciding which to choose and this conversation helped layout some of the thinking process a writer goes through.

    I’ll keep these pointers in mind. Thanks again for all the great suggestions!
     

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