1. RightWrite

    RightWrite Part-Time Skeptic, Full-Time Rationalist Supporter

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    First person POV and facial descriptions?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by RightWrite, Feb 11, 2020.

    Is it appropriate for the first person POV character to describe his own facial complexions or facial expressions in the novel?

    In real life, we usually don't consciously notice our own facial expressions when talking to someone. So, I'm having doubts as to whether my first person POV character should describe his own facial expressions, let alone his own facial complexions.

    So, are the following dialogue examples appropriate for a first person POV?

    Description of complexion:

    My face turned red with indignation. "Back off!"

    Description of facial expression:

    "You can't be serious. Well..." I said, with a look of confusion on my face.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "My face turned red..." in a 1st person story is probably going to go unnoticed, and may simply get subsumed under the umbrella of idiomatic speech wherein it is synonymous with feeling one's cheeks go red, rather than seeing them, but it is technically a logical break in the POV. It's not an observation that makes logical sense the way it's written. Can it not be rephrased with a verb indicative of physical sensation rather than visual observation?
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  3. RightWrite

    RightWrite Part-Time Skeptic, Full-Time Rationalist Supporter

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    How about, My face grew warm with indignation...?
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I felt my cheeks flush

    on the latter example its unneeded you can show confusion purely through the dialogue - that said if you want it you could just say "you can't be serious " I said, confused
     
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  5. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yep, and depending on the tone and the context, the kind of story it is, the genre, there's a gazillion ways to trick out that little can of condensed soup.

    The heating elements in my cheeks flared high...

    Indignation crawled up my neck and face like hot steel-plate battle armor being riveted into place...

    Every story, scene, event is different and allows for variable flexibility in deployment.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This one is harder to accept as just idiomatic speech. He or she cannot possibly see this. He or she can note that their brows furrowed in confusion or that one eyebrow lifted singularly and expertly in rebuttal, or something that's physical that the POV character can actually note. His or her own facial expression as a flat delivery is very much a break in POV.
     
  7. Richach

    Richach Senior Member

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    I stifled a smile.
    I couldn't help but smile.
    A flush of embarrassment washed over my face.

    I agree with Wreybies, feelings work but less so observations.
     
  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    apart from just implying it in dialogue the other option is to break down what 'look of confusion' actually is and describe that in a way that does work

    "you say moose is the best looking moderator?" I frowned "that can't be right"

    or

    "you think he's handsome?" I pursed my lips "what have you been smoking?"
     
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  9. RightWrite

    RightWrite Part-Time Skeptic, Full-Time Rationalist Supporter

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    Thank you all for the replies.
    Perhaps, this is better... "You can't be serious," I said, raising my eyebrow with confusion.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
  10. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This particular wording still feels too much like we're trying to force a camera in front of the character. It's still trying to tap the visual rather than the visceral.

    Something similar came up in a crit I got the other day from @big soft moose. I have a few lines that feel very much the same, where I'm giving the same information in two different ways one after the other, first show, then tell.

    Think about it:

    "You can't be serious," he said.

    The dialogue alone is already giving us what we need. Those words automatically conjure an expression of incredulity. Hammering it home through the dialogue tag is beating the dead horse. Now, I realize this may just be an uncontextualized example you've given for the purposes of asking this particular kind of question, but even if that be the case, it still serves to show that sometimes the right answer is D - None of the Above. :) In this particular case, the dialogue is already doing the heavy lifting, and it's happening cleanly and succinctly, which is good.
     
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  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    I furrowed my brow in confusion.
     
  12. RightWrite

    RightWrite Part-Time Skeptic, Full-Time Rationalist Supporter

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    This is good... "You can't be serious!" I furrowed my brow in confusion.

    But, I would prefer the following as @Wreybies suggested...

    "You can't be serious," he said.

    As mentioned, It's better to let the dialogue do the heavy lifting as the confusion is implied. It also adheres to the "Show, don't tell" mantra.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
  13. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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  14. RightWrite

    RightWrite Part-Time Skeptic, Full-Time Rationalist Supporter

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    But, the character can feel himself raising his eyebrow, right? So how is that visual rather than visceral?
     
  15. RightWrite

    RightWrite Part-Time Skeptic, Full-Time Rationalist Supporter

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    LMAO! :superlaugh:
     
  16. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Because it's calling attention to an exterior trait and also naming the motivation for that trait, as though these kinds of actions are things we consciously enact to make them go. It still feels visual. And in truth, the more important part is the fact that the dialogue already did the work.

    This issue of failing to acknowledge the constraints of one's narrative mode comes up most infamously in the dreaded "Breasted Boobily" meme. This meme pokes fun at male writers writing female characters as though they were basically just life-support systems for their bosoms. It's a thing that understandably gets under the skin of female readers, and is more technically engaged as the "omniscient breast syndrome" wherein the breasts of the female character are on the cusp of becoming self aware agents capable of noting and speaking about their own presence.

    ohgod-awesome-posts-male-writers-writing-female-characters-cassandra-woke-up-to-23818015.png

    Now, typically this is engaged as a gendered issue, and it's pretty obvious as to why, but it actually answers to a more general and basic issue of point of view and the constraints of the narrative mode the writer choses. No human woman engages the world this way. Her breasts are not a sensor array or manipulator organs or anything other than what they are.

    Now, notice that until the last line where it goes into complete absurdity the prior lines are arguable as to whether she could actually notice this or not.

    Maybe she can, but does she? I have yet to meet a woman who is like, "Yeah, I'm just here for the ride. Pose your questions to The Girls."

    So again, my final proffer of just leaving it unmentioned and allowing the dialogue to do the work (which it's doing nicely) is less about looking for the confused expression workaround, and more about asking if looking for that workaround is maybe not the right question.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
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  17. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    But body language is important to immerse the reader in the scene. You can't rely just on dialogue.
     
  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't say that one must only rely on dialogue. There are very few answers in writing that are black and white, yes or no, do or don't, much as writers love to dish out rules of that nature.

    Rules in writing are a lot like the laws of physics. There's one set that governs the very small things, and another set that governs the very large things and the goal of physics as we know it today is to find where those two sets of laws meet and mesh because right now they don't.

    Writing is like that too. There are rules for the very small basic things. Letters make up words. If your language is analytic like English, then those words must come in a very specific order to give them an order of operation and meaning. If your language is synthetic, then it's all about the case endings serving as little job-hats for each word. Punctuation gives added layers of meaning to the words, etc.

    Those are rules, and they make sense as rules.

    But when you get into larger, more complex and abstract dynamics, rules make less and less sense because the "rules" get obeyed as much in the breach as in the adherence and, most notably, look for any conversation where someone is raving over a book and notice how often the phrase "breaks ALL the rules" gets mentioned.

    It's because rules no longer apply at this level and what looks like rule-breaking is, in fact, a completely different phenomenon. The writer has abandoned the shackles of rules and replaced it with the serenity of tools.

    Every word, every structure, every thing we write is a kind of tool intended to deploy a little subroutine, a little data transfer. So we pick the tools that best serve... hopefully.

    And as for body language to immerse the reader... That's certainly true. To a point. And when one crosses over that point, one enters into the realm of marionetting a character through every move and articulation of joint, finger, arm, leg. Not so bad here, where we're standing, but keep moving over in that direction and soon no amount of CGI can remove the strings from the character attached to the writer's fingers. That's what lies on the other end of the scale.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2020
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  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    no but in the sentemce "you can't be serious" I furrowed nb brow in confusion - we are telling the reader that the character is confused three times, first by dialogue, then by body language, then by straight telling as if they haven't got it already

    "you can't be serious" I said (1)
    I frowned (2)
    I was confused (3)

    "you can't be serious" I frowned (1&2)
    "you can't be serious i said, confused (1&3)
    I frowned, confused (2&3)

    all work better than

    you can't be serious" (1) I frowned (2) in confusion (3)
     
  20. Xoic

    Xoic Member

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    True, but there's no need to do both at the same time when either one alone will work. Try this by way of illustration—

    "Come on guys, let's go!" He gestured for them to follow.

    It's basically showing and telling at the same time. I mean the character is telling the others he wants them to follow while also gesturing for the same thing. Either one does the job, and to do both seems unsophisticated, like beating the reader over the head.

    It would be perfectly fine to express one thing verbally and something else that adds depth or meaning to it nonverbally, like

    "Hurry up, before they get away!" He ran for the door.

    Admittedly that was clumsily worded, but it's just by way of an example.
     
  21. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    @Seven Crowns, I pray you forgive that I've quoted you across threads, but this answer you gave to a different question is actually the same question in a different presentation. Easily the best explanation and much more illuminating than my prior magniloquence.

    To the OP, look past the part talking about repetition. That was the other question. The core concept that Seven Crowns hits in this response applies here as well if you're willing to take one step back in the order condescendi.

     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
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  22. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    You've conjured my voice from another thread. It's like a seance. Expect a jump scare at any moment.
     
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