Tips on writing facial expressions

by Jacob

Question: Is there any tips that help to describe facial expressions. Such as the position of the mouth, eyes, eyebrows, head or even hands and arms. Expressions such as anger, deep thought, uncertainty, sarcasm, physical strain (lifting weights) I believe I have some basics already but am looking for more creative or elaborate ways of expressing the mood. Thanks for any help!

Answer: Some reference books have been written to help writers in this area.

Once such book is The Emotional Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman. (Feel free to order it through this site at

You may find books such as this to be a helpful starting point.

Of course, it is always best to find your own unique way of describing emotions through a character's actions and words. That's what makes your writing come alive. It's part of what will give you a unique voice that sets your writing apart.

Comments for Tips on writing facial expressions

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Dec 15, 2015
How to use it effectively
by: Vijay

Hi, Glen,

I appreciate your time to answer us.
I have a copy of Emotional Thesaurus with me but I am not sure how to be more creative with it. For example, the mental response for happiness is listed as positive thinking, fearlessness, helpfulness, showing patience. Should we demonstrate all these with a separate scene for the character who is happy at that situation? How to use each of the listed items in one sentence to make it appealing?

Thank you again for your helpful advise,


Dec 15, 2015
To Vijay
by: Glen

You should think about all the ways your character might react to your planned story event. For instance, let's say you have a happy event (maybe your main character wins a contest, has an attractive person flirt with her, gets a raise, etc.). How do you show her happiness once she perceives the positive event? There may be a physical sensation, and a physical response (gasp, smile, cry of joy). She may think positive thoughts as she realizes the significance of the event.

Later, she may feel so good about things that she does something she would usually be nervous about doing. She might spontaneously help someone. She might be more patient with someone she usually finds tiresome. She might apologize to someone she was cross with earlier.

Maybe you need a separate scene, but often it's just a matter of incorporating these illustrations into scenes that are concerned with other events. This is especially true in film, where scenes often must do double duty.

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