Home » Writing » I hope my face doesn’t stay that way!

I hope my face doesn’t stay that way!

My dog, Harli, giving an example of the expression, 'Look how cute I am!'. Taken by my mum, Twisted Pixel on Flickr.

My dog, Harli, giving an example of the expression, ‘Look how cute I am!’.
Taken by my mum, Twisted Pixel on Flickr.

The other day I turned to my mum and sister whilst writing and asked, ‘What is this face?’, and then contorted my features into some weird kind of wrinkled expression.

They gave me one those looks that said, oh dear, she’s finally cracked, and answered along the lines of, ‘I don’t think that’s a real expression’.

I realised then, that I really love what I do 😀

The saying (that has been drummed into anyone wanting to pursue writing in any form) goes, ‘Show don’t tell’. And so, in order to achieve this, I try and act out whatever it is my character is doing, or try to feel what they are saying or the emotion they are experiencing, to get a better sense of exactly what that would look and feel like to the senses.

A lot of the time, I look down right bizarre! But at least I can see and sense exactly what it is I am trying to write, and in general my writing goes up a few notches because I can see all the detail of that expression, gesture or action that I might not have though of and can note it down.

For example, if I had a character who was angry and shouting. I would shout out the line of dialogue, taking on the role of the character and see how I say the line, and what I do during it. This gives me a more realistic sense of what is happening to transfer to the page. It also gives each character an individual feel, as when I ‘act’ them out I can get into their headspace.

Sometimes, I will say a line of dialogue and come up with an awesome response that I wouldn’t have come up with if I hadn’t said it out loud. Though anybody passing would speed up to get by me having a conversation with myself, but I think that comes with the territory of being a writer!

For me, this method really works! 😀

I love creating characters that are unique and leave an impression on the reader. And it’s really interesting to find out how other writers tap into characters and how they create the emotion and dialogue that goes onto the page.

Do you act out emotions or say dialogue when writing? How do you get into the headspace of a character? Any techniques you use that might work for others?

Progress Report:

Word Count: 15,017 (+12,478 since Tuesday)
Status of Fourth Manuscript: Writing first draft.

Books read: 1/4

June eBook review: Book chosen. Reading.

51 thoughts on “I hope my face doesn’t stay that way!

  1. I do this too! I do A LOT of faces – I need to make sure my characters are making the face I think they’re making! And I definitely say some of the dialogue, especially phrases or sentences that have emphasis on particular words, to make sure when I write it, it reads the same way it sounds. Getting into my characters’ heads isn’t too hard most of the time. I think we do these things to get the READER into the characters’ heads! 🙂

    • You’re exactly right 😀 Making sure that what I’m writing is the same as what it actually looks like helps make it feel more real, and that will in turn help connect the readers to those characters!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

    • It certainly is interesting for other people to watch me do it 😀

      I think maybe it’s because I’m such a visual writer, everyone has to find their own way, right?

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. I make weird faces all the time. I think it is a given if you are a writer, that you have bizarre emotional facial expressions for no valid reason whatsoever. People close to you will understand. Strangers won’t. It’s not your problem.

    • Very true 😀 I can just imagine them scooting to the other side of the café as I sit there grinning and then frowning!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  3. I don’t do dialogue or faces. Hand motions are a biggie for me though. I will ask DH occasionally, “What am I doing right now?” He’s very good about answering with a straight face. 🙂

    • It’s always good to have someone there to help with what exactly a gesture is and looks like 😀 Sometimes I really draw a blank!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  4. I dubbed this “Method writing” in one of my posts! I certainly do the same kind of thing, which means I have to be particularly careful when I’m working in a coffee shop or some sort of public venue.

    • This kind of writing (love the idea of it being called ‘method writing’ :D) does generally draw a lot of confused looks, but it does mean people give you a good amount of space to let you write!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  5. I don’t make facial expressions, but when I’m pretty sure no one can see or hear me while I’m walking to the station, I’ll often say lines out loud. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of my writing in front of me while walking, and I’m unlikely to walk while writing in a notebook. I try to remember what I thought of so I can write it down as soon as I arrive at work.

    • Sometimes the best stuff can come to you for the exact reason that you don’t have your writing in front of you 😀

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  6. I’m picturing you making faces! 😀 Great advice here! A friend gave me a small mirror to use while writing. She suggested looking at my expressions in order to use gestures more accurately in stories.

    • It’s amazing how much help it can be at times 😀 It’s those extra little details that you can pick up on when you actually see the expression, that I find can make an emotion sound even stronger on the page.

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  7. I love Harli’s face! So cute!
    And I’m sure your technique of saying the dialogues out loud works. I like to get my characters ‘chatting’ to get to know them better, although I don’t include the conversations in the novel. I do it so they open up… sounds strange, doesn’t it?

    • Doesn’t sound strange at all! The more you know your characters the better they will come out when writing them 😀

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  8. Great advice! Saying dialog out loud is awesome. You can catch whether or not it actually sounds believable. Here are some of the things I’ve tried: 1) Since I write about college students, I watch them interact. Nowadays students communicate constantly on their iphones which changes the dynamic in a scene. I can’t tell you how many times I see students glued to the screen of their device while having a face to face conversation. 2) Since I write contemporary I try to keep up with social issues. Certain words just mean something entirely different. 3) Many of my scenes I replay in my head constantly. I picture the background sounds, what they are wearing, objects–everything. Then I try to include the things that bring the scene to life. 🙂

    It’s all so much fun, I agree!

  9. That’s a great idea, especially for dialogue as it will help to see if it sounds realistic within the context of the conversation 🙂 Also, I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, I always enjoy your posts 🙂

    • I do like to say things out loud, it always sounds different when it’s actually spoken.

      And thank you so much! 😀 That is so kind of you. I am going to have to post an award post, I am so backed up on posts, that’s what I get for trying to be organised!

      Thank you again, I will be smiling all day 🙂

  10. I’ve never thought of doing that before – but I may try it out now! It makes a lot of sense, and I can really see how it could enhance someones writing. Thanks for the great tip!!

  11. Your doggie is adorable, and that’s a good plan to get into the zone…. I do talk to myself, and family think, ‘oh she’s on the plot again’ or more likely, ‘she’s lost the plot again.’ Ha ha….

    • Ha! I know that feeling 😀 It is great to get into the writing zone though, and I find talking aloud is a great way to get there!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  12. Yes, I do very much the same thing, especially if I am stuck doing a scene. If the speaker is male and I’m not sure how the tone of what’s being said would sound like I write the line on a piece of paper and take it to my husband and several other male friends for them to read after a brief explanation of what is going on in the story so they can respond as they think they would in a given situation. Sometimes brilliance shines through, sometimes hilarity, but it is *always* useful!

    • Having others be able to look over it and help you on it must make a big difference 😀 And they even get a teaser into what you’re working on too!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  13. In the shower. Saves lots of embarrassment. I still do it in public…the talking to myself not the shower. Everyone talks to nothing at some point, even non-writers.

    • I’m sure showering in public would get you a fair few odd looks too 😀 But yeah, sometimes you just have to do it to work out a particular scene or dialogue, no matter where you are!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  14. Hey! It’s Harli!

    I’ve got to sit down and watch you write sometime. Sounds like it makes for some good entertainment.

    And blazes, that’s a lot of writing you’ve done!

    • It certainly makes for entertainment 😀 Thankfully I do most of my writing alone, though Harli does give me the odd look now and again when I pull faces!

      I am pleased with my word count so far! It has really just been flowing, though I think the editing will be a fun trial!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  15. It’s an interesting post. I spend my day creating one facial expression after another! British Sign Language is a visual language, using body language and facial expression, so I’m easily able to convey how I’m feeling. When I really think about it though, the time I spend with my characters and monitoring the flow of conversation etc. happens entirely in my head. I see their facial expression, their body language, and this makes it easier to know what they would say. The only speaking (reading) aloud I do is to listen back to what I’ve written, looking for interruptions in the natural flow. I’m going to give your technique a go. Thanks for making us think about these things, and opening ourselves up to knew avenues to explore our writing 🙂

    • It’s just something I do that I wondered if others did, obviously it won’t work for everyone 😀

      Sign language if such an incredible language, I think there is much more expression and emotion shown through it, as you say. Do you translate sign language?
      I can imagine it would help a lot when deciphering the small gestures of characters!

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting 🙂

      • Yeah I’m a sign language interpreter 🙂 Being bilingual where my second language is a visual one certainly does help!

        On a separate note I just finished Stolen Bloodline – I will leave a review on Amazon later today and tweet about it. Just at work at the mo so I’m limited. I really enjoyed it and liked you twist on the vampire origins very much. I also have a huge crush on Bane!

      • What an incredible thing, I could barely wrap my head around learning another spoken language, I am always amazed by those who use sign language, and the speed with which they do it!

        Oh, thank you so much! 😀 I really hope you enjoyed it, and I’m glad you liked Bane, he was one of my faves!

        Thank you so much again!

  16. I’m such an introvert that I don’t think I could actually act out what my characters say and do. That said though, I’m quite such that there are some goof looks coming across my face as I write.

    When you do your acting, does it separate you from your characters so that they truly are themselves and not just different versions of you? I wonder about this with my own writing.

    • I am pretty good at keeping them separate, I do love for every character to have an individual feel so I’m quiet strict. I used to love drama and acting at school, so that does help! 😀 But you’re right, if I act out a line of dialogue or an emotion, I have to make sure it’s not just in the way I would say or perceive it, but that particular character.

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  17. This is something I can’t recall if I have done before, but definitely when writing dialogue I am likely to act out character emotions. In fact, I think I do act out silently, and occasionally aloud, the character’s emotion when writing dialogue 🙂

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