Thursday, March 8, 2012

Building a Memorable Character (Part 3 of 3)

In today's post, I wanted to give you more ammo to building memorable characters; focusing specifically on utilizing facial expressions and gestures. (Click here for Part 1 and Part 2)

I am a big fan of the TV series Lie to Me. In the show, Dr. Lightman is a professional "body language reader", running an honest business exploiting his gift/practice. He uses his talent for solving crimes, fishing out liars, cheats, and con-artists, all with the science of body language.

Check out the Lie to Me Intro:

Most emotions involve more than one facial reaction and body gesture. Use this to your advantage in painting the full "picture" for your readers (I usually scatter them throughout a scene so it's not a grocery list of descriptions). Often times however, readers aren't going to understand certain emotions your'e trying to convey simply by describing their body's reactions. For example: you're trying to show "contempt" by saying that a character's lips were twitching. You may want to add: annoyed glance, and/or nostrils flaring, and even admit the showing of contempt by spelling it out: "Contempt reeked from his face, in the way his nostrils flared, his eyes averted, and the slight twist of his lips." This might be a bit much, but practice, practice, practice! You can define and add depth to the mood of your scenes, using this trick!

Here's another video to help you visualize what basic expressions look like, and what parts of the face do what. 

Ready for more? 
Watch a soap opera. They are full of electrical moments, and long pauses while the cameras focus at length on the characters expressions. People watching is something I do often when I'm out and about. To help hone my skill, I've also begun to be more attentive to they way people behave/react (while trying to be discreet about it--nobody likes to be stared at...) and seeing if I can guess how they're really feeling by how their body is reacting to what we're talking about, or what others are saying. I've seen people say they agree to something someone says, but their heads are shaking...okay...clearly they don't "really" agree.

You want to get advanced? Use subtle cues such as: body facing away from the person they're speaking to, legs crossed and uncrossed (and what that means), arms crossed, and hands hidden beneath desks. Even the way a persons face is at rest, tells a lot about them. Their facial muscles (and wrinkles) are defined by the most common expressions they make. Notice how some people look like natural "scowlers" by the deep grooves in their laugh lines, accompanied by down-turned lips? Okay, I can go on forever, but have fun with these exercises!

Try it out and let me know how it goes!

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1 comment:

  1. hi

    just stumbled across this site and really liking it.

    Moody Writing


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