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Monday, August 15, 2011

Writer’s Sketch: Expression Map

Another great tool in the writer’s arsenal is creating unique, consistent characters. In order to keep these people behaving time and again in the same manner, you should first work on their basic emotions. For this exercise, focus on practicing varied expressions that will arise when writing. By all means, use a character you are currently studying from a published or original text (perhaps even your warm-up story if it’s the same character), you don’t need to create one for this matter.

When describing the person’s changing reactions, be as descriptive as the expression requires. But you don’t want to focus on their every wrinkle either. Remember: People don't always (or only) smile when they are happy. Perhaps your character has a glum outlook and refuses to smile—this must also be taken into account. Fill out the following for a quick warm-up exercise to your writing time period.

I’ll use a character that most people are familiar with so you can notice the subtle changes: Mickey Mouse.

Happy: Thumbing his suspenders, Mickey snickered a bubbly laugh and graciously received Donald’s birthday gift.

Sad: With his ears downcast, the cement sidewalk held Mickey’s attention, its monochromatic pattern reflecting the weight in his stomach.
Angry: Mickey furrowed his brow and nose together, sternly scolding his pup after discovering Pluto’s jowls covered in a ruby glaze from the missing cherry pie.

Scared: He gasped loudly and his hands shot upwards to cover his mouth before he lost his balance and stumbled backwards.

Surprised: Despite the flutter of his heart, Mickey beamed regretfully to erase the fright on his face before apologizing to the pedestrian he bumped into.

Flirtatious: Nudging his shoulder against Minnie’s, Mickey’s smirk curled playfully as he giggled.

Reviewing the above expressions you can see how a minute alteration in description or diction can paint the emotion clearly and concisely. Throughout his sketch Mickey adheres to his personality which would provide an excellent base for any story starring the famous mouse to grow from.

Since this is a short exercise, feel free to add more emotions to your list and practice with increased frequency for a stronger gasp on your characters.  

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