Facial Expressions

It’s easy for us writers to use generic expressions for facial emotion. Eyebrows drawn together, pursed lips, wrinkled nose. But in the end, what do these expressions mean?

Or, my favorite way of reading an expression- “he gave her a funny look.” What the heck does a funny look, look like??

It’s so easy to write like this, but in an attempt to understand facial expressions a bit better, I turned to…Pinterest! (I have so gotten addicted in the past week 🙂 Pinterest turned up this amazing chart that I thought I’d pass along to y’all.

(I pasted the picture in, but then read at the top of it that it wasn’t meant to be reposted, so…instead here’s the link.)

Go ahead. Clicky-click on the link and enjoy some amazing insights into human expressions 🙂

Why is this important? Clarity is a big part of it, another huge part is so we don’t fall into the trap of using cliches. Nobody likes cliches. The human face has a multitude of expressions and we innately know what an expression says when we see it in someone’s face. It’s not easy to bring that into writing, but doing so is a heck of a lot better than simply saying your character looks happy, or sad.

What do you think? How important is it to write expressions well?

Be Sociable, Share!

12 thoughts about "Facial Expressions"

  • Kelley Lynn says:

    This is SO COOL! When I’m critiquing I find that I highlight the cliche ones a lot, saying ‘give us more here’. Or ‘be more descriptive’. Now i can actually show them what I mean! 🙂

  • Writing facial expressions that mean something is always tricky. Plus, everyone’s face is different and what might be an angry expression on one person, might be something completely different on a another.

  • Juliana says:

    Kelley- that cracked me up. I totally know what you mean by writing comments like that 🙂

    Kate- I have heard that expressions are universal, that even when people speak different languages, expressions can still be read and understood. It’s pretty neat, really.

  • Krispy says:

    Awesome chart! That’s very helpful, and you are so right. Facial expressions are some of the hardest things to describe without it going the way of cliche or sounding ridiculous. 😛

  • Rachel Frost says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this! It’s so useful as a writer and as an artist. 🙂

  • Great chart! Have you heard of the Grimace Project? It’s similar, but doesn’t have as many emotions as this chart. On grimace-project.net, you can combine two of six emotions for a face and adjust the levels of those emotions to make an expression. It’s fun to play with if you aren’t exactly sure what kind of expression you are looking for.

  • VERY cool! Thanks for sharing. I want to check out the Grimace project too!

  • If you want to be a REAL writer, pretty darn important!!

  • Thanks for the link. It’s excellent for us writers.

  • Marsha Brandt says:

    I love the facial chart. In looking this over I wonder what my facial expressions are saying to others throughout my days. Exploring this may be helpful in improving my relationships with others. This gives me “pause”.

  • Jack says:

    Juliana, clickity-clicked on the chart and downloaded it for consumption when I’m in a less than busier state!

    Hey, this post reminds me of the comment you had given me when I wrote in my MS, “Her memory-filled eyes tore away from him…” Remember what you wrote? You said, “What do memory-filled eyes look like?” LOL I’ll never forget that line! Now, I’m attentive to every facial expression and tick my MC gives!

  • ChemistKen says:

    As I read this post, I realized I had used the line “She gave him a funny look” in one of my WIP chapters. Oh well. Guess that’s what being a beginning writer is all about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *