Tag Archives: body language

Your Characters’ Smiles

smile quoteCan you tell the difference between a fake smile and a natural smile? A genuine smile includes wrinkles around the eyes, the mouth muscles move, the cheeks rise, and eyebrows dip slightly. Research has shown that an apology given with a smile in a courtroom, produces a lesser penalty than an apology without a smile.

A fake smile is made only with the mouth. People often think that deliberate liars smile often. Liars knowing that fact, will smile less and will hold the smile longer, as if to wear a mask. A fake smile appears stronger on one side of the face than the other. Observe several types of smiles. One is the tight-lipped smile. Women recognize it more easily than men since they use it to show they don’t like someone. It’s a rejection signal The Joker in Batman and Bill Clinton, for example, use the drop-jaw smile. The lower jaw is dropped down to make it look like the person is laughing or playful. Diana, noted for a sideways-looking-up smile, won the hearts of people. Prince William uses it now with the result of winning people’s affection and it also reminds them of Diana.

A smile is a curve but sets all straight

Did you know most people in Atlanta, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, and Texas smile more often than other Americans? If someone smiles constantly, people wonder what that person is up to. President Jimmy Carter, a Southerner, smiled all the time and his backers worried that Northerners feared he knew something they didn’t. President George W. Bush had a permanent smirk on his face.

When we writers understand what different smiles mean, we have another tool for showing our characters’ body language in relation to their intentions and feelings. In my novel, Norman in the Painting, Jill, my protagonist, would give Arctarius a tight-lipped smile because she doesn’t trust him. Jack smirks at Jill even when she’s angry at him. Jill could give Ed, a Diana smile to enlist his approval.

Take a minute to make a list of your characters and which kind of smile they use the most.

Information from Allan and Barbara Pease.

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Writing Body Language with Gestures

fingers to face gestureWhen writers describe body language, it’s often done with one simple sentence, such as Viv furrowed her brow. The meaning can be misleading without supportive evidence in how she’s feeling. Is she confused? Is she angry with what was said? Or is she in pain? Gesture clusters reveal more accurate information.

For instance in this photo, the index finger points up the cheek and covers the mouth. Some variations could include the second finger covering the mouth and the thumb under the chin. The main indicator is the index finger pointing upward with the other fingers’ positions supporting the emotion.

What is he thinking? That gesture shows he is having critical thoughts about what he hears. He’s not convinced. His body language could be saying, “I’m holding back my negative thoughts about what is presented.” If he is in a sitting position, his legs might be crossed because he is not open to changing his mind. His other arm might be crossed over his rib cage indicating defense for his opposing opinion.

When writing body language show more than one simple gesture. Think of the power of three to make a gesture cluster.


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