I wanted to dig a little more into my previous post about using expressions during character interaction. You can find Part 1 here.
Let’s first address why people resort to these expressions in the first place. It’s because they’re taught to show instead of tell, and having your characters shrug and sigh are ways of showing their hesitance or discontent without explaining it to the reader. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but writing that shows instead of tells doesn’t automatically qualify it as good writing.
Writing style is constantly evolving. Shrugging and sighing and eyebrow furrowing might’ve constituted flavorful writing 10 or 15 years ago, but once enough writers picked up on these techniques and included them in their stories, what was once fresh and imaginative became overdone and cliched.
As touched on in my previous post, physical expression is still very important in character interaction. If you had none at all, you would end up resorting to ‘telling’ at times, or explaining how a character feels instead of letting the reader figure it out. And that’s boring. But what you should do is think hard about how people might wear their feelings, and find a way to describe these expressions in a fresh way. But avoid turning those expressions into purple prose at all costs.
Saying as much as possible in as few words as possible is the sign of a great writer. If you continue to analyze which physical expressions are necessary in your manuscript, you’ll find that some interactions work just fine without them. Take them out and you’ll end up with a tighter novel and better pacing. And you won’t have any of those expressions that might cause your reader to sit back, put your book down, and sigh.