Resources for writers with little time and even less money, who are on the journey to publication.
Facial Expression: How to Show Your Character's Emotions
The countenance is the portrait of the soul, and the eyes mark its intentions. ~Cicero
I've been thinking about facial expressions for some time. It's amazing how much can be conveyed by the look on someones face.
As writers, we need to hone the skill of translating each meaningful look, each scathing glance, each crestfallen countenance--into mere words.
A man finds room in the few square inches of his face for the traits of all his ancestors; for the expression of all his history, and his wants. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson,Conduct of Life
For me, the first goal is to have a clear picture of my character's face, along with an intimate knowledge of his or her life. Fears, wants, joys. Past pain, station in life, goals for the future. Soon, I can meld their facial features with the emotions underneath the surface.
Here are some resources that can be used to come up with a composite of your character:
One way is to create an avatar for your character. An avatar is a digital picture, one where you decide the features, hair and eye color, and skin tone.
Another possibility is to make a police sketch of the character you have in mind. Or, you can search online for modeling agencies, and scan through the pictures they post.
An eye can threaten like a loaded and levelled gun, or it can insult like hissing or kicking; or, in its altered mood, by beams of kindness, it can make the heart dance for joy.... One of the most wonderful things in nature is a glance of the eye; it transcends speech; it is the bodily symbol of identity. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The second goal is to understand the various meanings of facial expressions. The Data-Face site offers a complete education on every expressive part of the face. If you want to test if your character can raise his eyebrows while smirking, try the live demonstration on this site. Also, microexpression is a factor for your characters. Read a great explanation here. And if you want to test yourself to see if you are interpreting facial expressions correctly, try this quiz.
Author Toni Morrison knows how to describe facial expression. Check out this example"
My daddy's face is a study. Winter moves into it and presides there. His eyes become a cliff of snow threatening to avalanche, his eyebrows bend like black limbs of leafless trees. His skin takes on the pale cheerless yellow of winter sun; for a jaw he has the edges of a snowbound field dotted with stubble; his high forehead is the frozen sweep of the Erie. ~Toni Morrison
I'll leave you with two more quotes:
The expression a woman wears on her face is far more important than the clothes she wears on her back. ~Dale Carnegie
A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction. ~Oscar Wilde
How do you manage your character's facial expressions?