So, here's the thing! How many smiles are there? I know that's a dumb stupid question and I should be ashamed of myself, but I was reading a book you see. Yes, yes, you're wondering what in Hell's name an author is doing reading a book. Well, I'll tell you - I was thinking about smiles. A "wry smile" started it all. The author I was reading - who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty - sprinkled wry smiles about like confetti at a mob wedding.
I began thinking - as one does - about smiles. Confession time! In my own writing I usually write: "He smiled", "She smiled", "He gave a hint of a smile"; "She gave a half-smile", and that was the extent of my smiles, which is pretty lame I know.
For someone who has written The Writer's A-Z of Body Language it's especially lame, but I have a lame excuse - a smile is just one indicator of body language. See, I told you it was lame.
Anyway, I did some research - as one does - on exactly how many smiles there are. Apparently, nobody can agree on the number of smiles a human possesses. There are anywhere between 2 and 19. You'll be relieved to hear that I'm not going to list them, because only some of them are helpful in describing a type of smile.
A smile is a form of body language and in my A-Z I include a smile for a number of emotions/feelings and attitudes, but I don't describe the type of smile because a smile is a smile - isn't it?
Well look, if I do a 'smile' search on the A-Z, the first smile that appears is 'Accepting ideas' - what type of smile is that? Then, we have 'Alarmed' and 'Aroused'! Go on - I dare you to tell me what an alarmed or aroused smile looks like. A smile doesn't happen in isolation to a person's feelings, or the context/situation they find themselves in.
| || |
Here's another colourful wheel, but this time on attitudes. Some descriptors work with a 'smile', such as a 'contemptuous smile' or a 'smile of anticipation', but others don't. In the end, what you're left with is what emotion your character is trying to convey. The other problem, of course, is that we often smile for no apparent reason, or do we?
'Why are you smiling?'
'Because I can.'
'Your eyes aren't smiling.'
'That's because I'm not happy.'
'Then why are you smiling?'
'I've just destroyed the world.'
'Yeah - right! Another pint of mother's ruin?'
'May as well.'