During the course of a conversation, how many different expression can evolve over a face?
"I have a warrant for your arrest," the Barney Fife look-a-like cop said in a voice as flat as a Texas highway.
Paul couldn't figure out if this was a joke or a bad imitation of Sergeant Friday. There lacked a tell-tale twinkle in his eye, but his mouth twitched, though it might have been nothing more than a facial tick.
"Very funny," Paul said. "Who put you up to this?"
Barney's eyes widened and his head tilted slightly. Was that surprise or did Paul make the guy?"
"I can assure you, sir, this is no joke."
Paul began to feel uneasy as one by one his brain recounted possible offenses. Though still, a tenseness radiated from the cop's body. One wrong move, Paul thought, and he's all over me.
Barney's eyes hardened and his mouth set in a grim line as his hand began to move toward the handcuffs attached to his belt.
He's going to cuff me. Paul stepped back impulsively. The cop's hand froze over his gun. Sweat beaded on Paul's forehead. The cop's eyes narrowed.
In a flash, Barney grabbed the gun, pointed it at Paul's chest and pulled the trigger.
Paul's heart leaped into his throat as he watched Barney's finger squeeze the trigger, watched the barrel as in a horrifying second the bullet flew out of the gun. But it wasn't a bullet, it was a rod. Hanging from the rod a piece of paper uncoiled and for a second Paul stared in disbelief as he read the words, "Happy Birthday, Paul. Love Mom."
This is poor example of facial expressions with a little body language. I began to wonder how many facial expressions there were and how many we use in the course of a conversation.
Surprise and shock can be written in a number of ways. Wide eyes, pursed lips, open mouth, not to mention the sudden intake of air, hands over mouth. Even without the body language, a person's face can easily be read.
Anger, rage, disapproval are portrayed in the forehead as a frown, the mouth turned down, teeth clenched together, eyes narrowed or sharp. We as authors get to change a person's eye color and cause them to flash. How cool is that?
There are many facial expression. From a life time of experience we're able look into a person's face and perceive their feelings. As writers, it's our job to draw on the reader's experiences and engage their emotions in empathy with our characters. When I find myself in a rut, I sit back and live in the moment I'm trying to write. Sometimes it works.