Think how we refer to the face in our language: the term face is already loaded with metaphor and ulterior meaning.
Putting a good face on it; facing someone down; facing it; facing up to things; being two faced; facing the consequences
The physiology of the faces has its own message system:
Eye being the window to soul; hollow eyes; haunted eyes; shadowed eyes; bright eyes; folded lips; wide smile; rigid jaw
Movements of the face are part of the action in our prose:
|The Writer's Challenge:|
There's no art to find
the mind's construction
in the face. Shakespeare.
The face is work in progress. It tracks the passage of time:
Faces seem to seem remain the same yet alter through time: plain faces become handsome, distinguished with time; pretty people become plain with the passage of years.
Faces are the place where the act of living maps your experience:
He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom. P G Wodehouse.
( A thought: A child's face is hard to paint and hard to write, How do you paint or write a blank canvas? Even great painters have problems with children, Look at Van Gogh! We can portray children more through their emanations and actions, their wriggling and rolling, their screaming and chattering...)
Returning to the grown-ups and how in our prose we use faces in our prose to indicate feeling, drama and action.
| His eyes made a person think that |
he heard things that no one else
had ever heard, that he knew things
no one had ever guessed before.
He did not seem quite human.
My preferred way is to use the face in the process of the storytelling.I prefer not to describe directly
but to allow the reader to infer indirectly as the narrative grow. What happens in the face is part of the whole gradual package of the novel as we get to know the characters, their age and demeanour, their motivation, their transitory meaning as part of the ongoing narrative:
What different things happens in their face as they speak to someone they love, they hate, they despise, they need?
What happens when your character focusing on a particular task? eg the tip of my tongue shows when I am concentrating on drawing or writing.
|My comforr is that old age,|
that ill-layer up of beauty
can do more spoil upon my face
- Of course the face can tell lies. God has given you one face and you make yourself another.
- False face must hide what false heart must know
- I never see they face but I think on hellfire.
And one from JG Salinger
- She was not one for emptying her face of expression.
Of course we don't have to make our characters gurning, grinning puppets but the use of the mobility of the face to indicate character, drama and action is available to us and if we use it artfully and with restraint it will add vivid layers to our prose.
To illustrate: Work in Progress from my current novel :
... He spoke to them in the old tongue but both brothers answered in Latin. Kynan grinned at Magnus’s surprise. ‘Our father had us spend two seasons in the house of a merchant in
an agent who sold our lead right across the great inland sea.’... Rome
(In the context of the narrative the word 'grinned' has much more meaning here than the baring of teeth,..,,)