Friday, 10 June 2011

To smile, or not to smile?

Usually I agree with writing tips, but I fell across this one the other day and I wondered…

"a reminiscent smile rose to his lips". No! He can't see himself smile. He can only feel the reminiscence, and if he smiles, he smiles.
I let it simmer on the back burner for a couple of days. Often time allows a different perspective, but not this time. Surely the character can feel himself smile and most of the time knows what kind of stupid, goofy or reminiscent look he exhibits to the world? He uses muscles to smile, throw a punch or shoot a filthy look at an enemy. We all put on a mask for the world, and we use it knowledgeably.

If the POV character observes another character he may assume he knows the reason for the reminiscent smile. He may be wrong, of course. We all pick up signals from another’s body language and friends who know each other well can usually tell why one of them is reacting in the way they do.

Like everything else, there are always exceptions to every rule. Perhaps it is time for writing tips to be written in a less dogmatic way, or else readers should interpret them more loosely. I can’t remember if I’ve written any that are so black and white, but I hope not. But certainly, I disagree with the paragraph in italics above. What do the rest of you think?
Pic: Durham Castle and Cathedral (World Heritage site)

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