It’s annoying to me that I cannot capture facial expressions and body expressions for characters the way that I want to. Film does that. To do so as a writer the way I want to would be distracting and annoying, even if I could catch the nuances the way I want to.
I was just watching “Catch and Release,” a Jennifer Garner flick that I have no intention of reviewing here, except in two scenes that I found magical. At one point, she finds herself kissing a guy she didn’t really plan to and when she realizes it, she stops. There are no words between them. But the hand language. A twisting of the fingers, a push in the air, a flick of dismissal, a curling of embarrassment and pain–so expressive. And then later, as they talk, the same sort of body language between the characters. This time not just the hands, but the bodies and the faces. His face is expressive too (forget his name–Oliphant maybe?) and it’s the flicker of emotion, the mobility of expression, between the two that communicates so silently and compactly a wealth of things.
I can’t do that. Pictures paint a thousand words. Course words also paint a thousand pictures and I like working in the medium of words, but sometimes I wish I could show exactly what I want in the descriptions of the faces and body language, but I can’t seem to quite get there.
In fiction, however, this is the part that the reader brings to the page–the imagining of the world, of the people, seeing things in their mind’s eye and seeing the expressions–pain, regret, hope, guilt, contentment–all the possible emotions and the combinations of them (often conflicting and wrenching) that make a person so very human.
Then too, I know–I know–that readers don’t like to be told too much, to have everything explained in perfect detail. They want the writer to let them fill in the details and feel connected to the world and characters. To let them have some ownership of what they are reading. The balance is difficult and hard to find sometimes, and I’m not sure right this moment how you judge whether you’ve succeeded except on gut feeling.
This is rambling, I know, but I suppose my point, if there has to be a point, is that when a writer captures a nuance of expression, of body language, admire it. It’s harder than it looks. Do you want to point to anybody you think does it especially well?
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