Writing Craft. Showing Emotions Instead of Telling. Part 1.

Blushing. Silently, effectively conveying discomfort or the "veil of love" as  Charles Darwin proposed in his book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872 (Third Edition edited by Paul Ekmann.)  How many times have authors written about that one feature? Countless.

Writing for emotion impact is the challenging part of story creation. Not news, right? But what's the answer for such a simple question. Study emotions. Simple answer but not so easy.

Learning to see with the non-verbal eye beyond what others say or, perhaps don't actually say. Words are tricky, getting in the way of what we wish to convey, limiting us as soon as they are spoken.  We have word choices to connect as well as disconnect, distance, or hide our true feelings.

In writing, the words we choose, placed just so, imbue a scene or exchange between characters with emotional charge that will connect, bond, and resonate with our readers. World building, creates the illusion that we share the story. The ability to draw a reader, begins and ends within the emotional landscape of the story, binding our readers to our characters, their conflicts, so that the lines and boundaries of the book or screen fall away.

What are the tools ?

Comprehend how emotions play out from psyche to physique. We come from a species that has limited and highly recognizable ways that emotions are displayed. There are seven core emotions: anger, joy, rage, sadness, disgust, contempt, and surprise. The face is a "snapshot" of these emotions that can be studied. Appendages accessories to further speak the unspoken. Once the keys are known, it is far easier to unlock or show character action that fully convey invisible emotions rather than tell.

Reknown pyschologist, Paul Ekman's Facial Action Coding System offers training in recognizing feelings in those close to us as well as strangers who we people watch.

F.A.C.E. Training Link

For thirty years, Dr. Edman has studied and teaches others how emotions impact facial muscles, changing the appearance of the face.




Charting the muscles underlying facial actions (AUs), here in the upper face. AUs 1 & 2—inner and outer parts of the frontalispull the medial and lateral parts of the forehead skin up; AU 4—combination of corrugator, procerus, and depressor supercilii pull the brow down and together; AUs 6 & 7—outer and inner parts of orbicularis oculi raise the cheek around the eye and tighten the eyelid. Image from a revised CD-ROM version of Facial Action Coding System by Paul Ekman, Wallace Friesen, and Joseph Hager.
Above Reference:http://cabinetmagazine.org/issues/31/turner.php

How can facial mapping help a writer?

Dialogue in writing is nothing like real life. Character speech that is on-point can be toxic to excitement. Hidden meaning, using dialogue to uncover character personality attributes, motivation, and emotional context is well down by the use of facial mapping. The pulling together of brows, flattening of the nose, slight flare in the nostrils could be a sign of anger characteristic of the hero who never says what he thinks or the person who is not at liberty to relay their emotions.

Along with the visceral reactions, internalizations, accurate body language ties an emotionally charged scene together, creating greater depth in writing by autheticity.

It's not enough to research scene environments, historical movements, political unrest. An author first and foremost must be an authority on knowing the human emotional signals.

Stay tuned for Part 2 - BODY SPEAK- Nonverbal Communication

My recommendation for the holidays!

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