Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Facial Expressions--Contempt

I'm always finding great music, shows, or books after they've been around awhile. Although I'm late to the game, Lie to Me has completely won me over. From the first episode, all I could think was, "How can I use this in my writing?" The next few blog posts will cover the 7 main facial expressions.

Today we are going to talk about the facial expression that shows Contempt. Remember, in writing showing is preferred to telling.

First, let's make sure we understand what contempt is. (The following is a combination of information I found on Emotional Competency and Physiology of Facial Expressions.

Definitions
1. Feeling morally superior to someone else.
2. Disapproving of another’s action.

Synonyms: appalled, despise, disdain, indignation, and reproach. We snub someone when we dismiss them with contempt. Contempt is similar to disgust, but pertains to people and their behavior rather than to chemically toxic substances.

So what does it look like?
This is the only expression that appears on just one side of the face: One half of the upper lip tightens upward.
Sometimes it almost looks like a lopsided smile, but if you look closely you can see the tightness in the eyes. Also, once again, only one side of the lips are raised. In a real smile the whole face gets in on the action.



The facial expression of contempt has these distinctive features:

* Chin is raised, making it easier to look down your nose at the offender
* The lip corner is tightened and slightly raised on one side of the face
* A slight smile can show enjoyment
* This expression is often called a sneer.

Body language may include:

* exaggerated sigh
* folding arms across chest
* raising an eyebrow
* rolling the eyes
* waving a hand in dismissal

Example in writing:

Telling: She watched him load the groceries with contempt.

Showing: She crossed her arms and lifted her chin as he placed the groceries in the trunk. He noticed the tightness around her eyes as she shook her head and sighed.

Eh, something random off the top of my head, so don't be surprised it isn't that great. But you get the idea.

For more ideas on how you can work showing contempt into your novel, head over to the Bookshelf Muse and browse the suggestions for: haughty/smug/superior and indignation.

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