Read a smile you’ve read hundreds of times? Could be loathsome.
We all know those clichéd, overused, carry-no-interest smiles and grins.
Here are a few overused smiles and grins:
- Weak smile
- Broad smile
- Silly smile
- Ear-to-ear smile
- Smile that didn’t reach eyes
- Infectious grin
- Impish grin
- Fought a grin
- Teasing grin
- Wicked grin
- Lopsided grin
Compare those to these three fresh smiles.
Serena’s Fall, M.K. Smith, 5-time Immersion-Grad
Rachel’s smile flicked by like a camera flash, bright and cold.
Days Made of Broken Glass, Laura Drake, 2-time Immersion-Grad
His slow, slimy smile bared her lie.
The Dirt on Ninth Grave, Darynda Jones, 2-time Immersion-Grad, NYT Bestseller
The smile I offered the jackass and his friend hid my grinding teeth.
This blog has 50+ fresh smiles or grins. I bet you won’t skim.
Let these fresh examples roll through your mind. And smile.
I’ll share Teaching Points for some of the examples.
Reyes fought a grin and lost.
Darynda took a cliché, and played.
His smile defined smug.
Short and powerful!
He said it with a smile that was about one-quarter smirk.
She used specificity to make that smile fun. Not half-smile, half-smirk. Not as fresh or fun.
Agent Nguyen’s gaze landed on me. I waved a tight hello and got the feeling Nguyen was warming up to me. His smile held less acid than the ones he used to offer me, but that was all the warmth I’d get from him.
Grayson sat up and gave me the melt-your-heart smile that I’m sure made most women drop an egg.
I remember when Jenn Windrow wrote that line in Immersion class. Love it!
Len’s toothy smile reminded me of the day he surprised me with round-trip tickets to Pompeii, not the smile of someone who had figured out his girlfriend was a lying slut.
A smile, a memory, and sharing what the smile was not. Strong power word for backloading too. Smart writing!
The clueless brunette grabbed Grayson’s hand and wrote something on his palm in black Sharpie. Phone number? Bra size? Winning Lotto numbers? He gave her his dazzling I’m-a-horny-hunk smile.
Fun hyphenated-run-on with alliteration.
Grayson’s lips pressed flat before turning into a wicked smile. A smile I knew well. A smile he used when we were in bed together. A smile that told me he planned on having a good time tormenting me.
Jenn Windrow used the rhetorical device anaphora to empower that smile.
He gave me a killer smile that sent a bullet straight to my heart.
Cliché play with big-time power!
He smiled in an I-missed-you way and pointed the gun at the floor.
Adam smiled an I-may-or-may-not-be-kidding smile.
Those two smiles were not close to each other in The Colony.
I broke into a smile bigger than I had when I went into Disneyworld. The movement made my face feel funny. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d smiled.
That smile is themed to her life before her world was invaded by Raspers. Amplified with a sensation and a thought.
The Rasper’s face shifted from a mask of pain to a serial-killer smile.
Kathleen provided a powerful contrast.
He pushed it at me with a Joker-worthy grin.
Kathleen used the rhetorical device allusion. She referenced the Joker.
She gave him a smile that wasn’t quite happy but not quite fake. Sort of sad.
A three descriptor smile.
McGill’s lips twitched, but he didn’t smile.
Showing What Didn’t Happen.
“You pretend indifference, but I know beneath your polite, this-is-just-a-job smile is a man who likes me.”
A hyphenated-run-on smile – and sharing she doesn’t buy his indifference, knows it’s a cover-up.
She gave him a serene smile. One as fake as most of the eyelashes he’d seen today.
Themed to their world.
Ian gave her a smile that reminded her of the teenager he used to be when he’d hang out at her house after football practice with her brother. Of the boy who pulled her hair and teased her excessively.
But mostly, the smile reminded her of the boy who’d spent the evening watching movies with her when he found her crying because the cool girls didn’t invite her to the middle school end-of-year party.
Lisa Wells slipped in several hits of backstory and deepened characterization, all based on a smile.
Short Passage, Two Smiles, Several Humor Hits
“What size are you?” the sales lady asked.
Kinley glanced at the ladies over the top of her glass. “A two mostly.”
Kinley took a sip. “Sometimes a four. A six feels nice.”
The sales lady stared at Kinley with a smile—a smile that didn’t grow or falter. Not so much a smile as a comment.
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
“Okay I’m an eight, but a small eight, so don’t bring me any large eights.” Kinley stared into the eyes of the sales lady, daring her to suggest otherwise.
She didn’t. But her serene, “I call chubby-girl” smile did.
Kinley folded. “Oh, what the hell, go ahead and throw in a ten. You know…in case they run small.”
First smile – Showed What’s Not Happening.
Second smile – Hyphenated.
Humor Hits too!
We’ll wrap up with lots of examples from Serena’s Fall. I’ll share a few comments in this section.
- “Serena.” Rachel gave me the kind of oh, it’s you smile practiced to not look practiced.
- My breath quickened, trying to find the oxygen his notice-me smile sucked out of the mall.
- At the back of the store, Rachel opened her lips in a slow, nasty smile. “He wants you.”
- Rachel tossed a vicious look that wouldn’t pass anyone’s test for a smile.
- I wanted to slap the smile off her face, but I’d probably cut my hand on her nose stud.
- Smiling is hard. Everyone does it, even blind people. But a real, sun from behind the clouds, all natural smile, the kind that reaches up to make crow’s feet dance? That smile can’t be faked, and makes everything a little better, a little funnier, a little more alive. Chloe had that smile. And she could bring it on command.
(NOTE: A police officer had just pulled her over for speeding.) Rachel adjusted her top and practiced a pouty smile in the rearview mirror like she was about to receive a warning.
Rachel stepped out and crossed her arms under her chest, showcasing the results of the extra buttons she’d undone. She even threw a touch of southern sweetness into her smile. Rachel could win the Oscar for getting out of trouble.
Easy to see the visual provided in those paragraphs!
Chloe’s smile hovered at the edge of nervous, and she fingered the last scroll.
She tossed her hair, throwing a smile in my direction mid-flip.
Simple, but oh-so-fresh. I see the action and the smile.
Chloe smiled at me, a little innocent smile. A smile that never saw real darkness.
She grinned like a little girl in a big girl’s body. Gods help anyone who falls for her.
So rich. And smart.
Deepens characterization. It’s also taps a universal truth.
I lied with my voice and a faked up smile. “Sounds great.”
“Fantastic. We can do dress up. I’ve got lots of choices.” Her tone was as friendly as a possessed doll.
My smile twisted and vanished. My heart thumped to catch up on missing beats. I exhaled. I didn’t like Rachel’s plastic life, but something about her combined with this boat made my skin grow legs and crawl. I shot a pleading glance at Chloe—don’t let me go alone.
Quick Analysis of that passage:
I lied with my voice and a faked up smile.
Marcus shared the incongruence between her voice and her expression.
Her tone was as friendly as a possessed doll.
Fresh and powerful dialogue cue.
My smile twisted and vanished.
Only five words about her smile, but they carry a punch.
My heart thumped to catch up on missing beats. I exhaled. I didn’t like Rachel’s plastic life, but something about her combined with this boat made my skin grow legs and crawl. I shot a pleading glance at Chloe—don’t let me go alone.
Visceral response. A thought and sixth sense is used as a stimulus for another visceral response, followed by a glance that carried a message.
BLOG GUESTS: Please read at least ten of the examples out loud.
They all carry a compelling cadence. The more cadence-driven writing you read out loud, the more you train your cadence ear.
How do you write fresh smiles and grins? You do what these authors did.
- You play with clichés.
- Use hyphenated-run-ons.
- You use rhetorical devices.
- You deepen characterization.
- You Show What’s Not Happening.
- You share incongruence between face and voice.
- You theme to the character’s world, setting, emotions.
- You use Humor Hits, if humor fits your voice and scene.
- You make sure your sentences carry a compelling cadence. Always.
And you use dozens of other deep editing techniques too.
These authors are all Margie-Grads. They write fresh facial expressions.
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