Friday, September 30, 2016

Showing Surprise in Writing

I'm working on a few things right now, where I need to show surprise in a person's face and through their actions.  I'm tired of writing, 'their mouth fell open in surprise.'  So I went to the web.  Here are a few things I found:

  • Surprise is one of seven universal expressions (also included are disgust, sadness, joy, contempt, anger, and fear.)
  • It displays neither positive or negative attributes.
  • It takes in as much information as possible in a short period of time.  It's instantaneous and not planned.  Brief.
  • Can segue into other emotions in seconds.
  • Hiding surprise is not an option.
  • If it's prolonged, it's shock.
  • Surprised and startled are two different things.  Startled is to have a fearful reaction to an external stimuli.
  • The main purpose of surprise or startle is to interrupt another action and make the character focus on the new stimuli
  • The opposite of surprise is anticipation

To show surprise:
  • eyebrows up and curved
  • upper eyelids raised to open eyes wider
  • quick breath (not always)
  • open mouth, jaw drops (not always)
  • horizontal wrinkles appear on forehead
  • can jump back in surprise
  • hand can fly to collarbone
  • may blurt out a curse or euphemism (using dialogue to indicate surprise)
  • may go pale
  • stop breathing for a moment
  • quirks--hiccups, clasps hands, goosebumps
  • pupil dilation or constriction
  • tenseness in muscles, especially the neck muscles
  • fight or flight (this is more for startle) response

Have a great day!
SweetTale Books

Emotions: Showing Surprise
Surprise (emotion) Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

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