Nothin' But Eyebrows

Saturday, March 03, 2018
        My name is Sioux and I'm an eyebrowaholic.

        I've discovered--recently--that I'm stuck in a rut when it comes to how I show. Of course, that's a mantra that all writers mutter: Show don't tell. I try my best. I do. I attempt to paint a picture through gestures and facial expressions, to convey to the reader what emotions my characters are feeling.

      However, when digitally conversing with the writers in my accountability group, I realized that I often fall back on eyebrows. I discovered that I frequently rely on eyebrows--and only eyebrows--to express emotions.

He turned towards her, his eyebrows raised in anticipation.

Her eyebrows lowered, and pushed down on her eyelids. Really?

One of Mama's eyebrows arched. I was scared of what she was gonna do next.

         I did a search in my current WIP and found 9 eyebrow bits. At one point I jotted them down on a piece of scrap paper, intending to include them in this post but then I misplaced the paper, so I'm hoping the above bits of "showing" are not as lame as what I really wrote. Otherwise, the only thing I'm showing is what a horrid writer I am.

        Then Sue Bradford Edwards saved the day. She suggested a book. I immediately ordered it, and it was delivered this week.

        This book is amazing. It lists around 80 emotions, and includes a wide variety of physical signals. For example, if a character is surprised, you don't have to fall back on both eyebrows raising up. You can have your character's mouth fall open. Their hand can fly to their chest. They can gasp.

         This weekend I'm leading a writing retreat. I'm going to work on a query letter and a synopsis, which is more than enough to keep me busy. However, when I need to take a brief break from those two tasks (since I'm terrified of the s-word... Synopsis is a dirty word), I'm going to look for ways to show what my characters are going through... without eyebrows.

         When it comes to writing, what is one of your favorite reference books? Sioux wants to know.  (And whisper it. My husband thinks I have too many books already.)

Sioux is working on polishing up a middle-grades historical novel; her progress is being nudged along in a major way by her writing accountability group. In her spare time (spare time? What is that?), she spends time with her family, and she rescues golden retrievers for Love a Golden Rescue. If you'd like to read more of her writing, you can check out her blog.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Sioux ~ Becca and Angela have an entire series of those books that cover everything from character traits to urban settings. It's nice to see these ladies creating valuable craft books on their own. I also love all of Writer's Digest Books' publications, and when I was writing fiction, I'd return to many of them again and again--ones like Word Painting and the Write Great Fiction series. I became overwhelmed with writing advice at one point and had to set aside all craft books. It's good to know what you specifically need before diving into a new resource book, and that's why The Emotion Thesaurus and their other books are so successful--they tackle one specific topic. Did you see they created a companion to your book called Emotion Amplifiers? It's 99 cents. (

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--I will think about making that MAJOR purchase only if they can tell me how to amplify raised eyebrows. ;)

You are exactly right. Knowing what you need before you reach for it (or buy it) helps a lot.

The synopsis is slow going. I don't think I am going to even finish it this weekend. The query letter? That will have to be for another week...

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Favorite writing books - The Emotion Thesaurus, The Urban Setting Thesaurus, The Rural Setting Thesaurus, Novel Metamorphosis, and The Writer's Journey.

Renee Roberson said...

That looks like such a handy resource, Sioux! Glad Sue recommended it! I know I have my own characterization quirks and this is a good reminder for me to scan them during edits. I have a feeling I use a lot of "hair stood up on the back of her neck" and "eyes narrowed."

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--I even shared it with the writers on the retreat this weekend. Thanks so much for the recommendation. It's a gem.

Renee--Eeew. I have characters narrow their eyes too. I think they do that while they're scrunching down their eyebrows.

The hair standing up on the back of a character's neck? I've never used that one. Next thing you know, I'll have 14 instances of that one... ;)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Yep, I picked that one up years ago and it's a good 'un!STORY TRUMPS STRUCTURE by Stephen James is one of my faves. No matter what you're writing, you've got to have a story. So it covers anything! :-)

(And everything. Which is very helpful to writers like me. :-))

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--There's one word in that book title that bothers me. Can you guess which word it is?

Sheila Good said...

I love this! I think I might fall into this crowd! Is there a 12-step program for eyebrowaholics? I will definitely do a check on my current WIP. Thanks for sharing.

Linda O'Connell said...

I also overuse the eyebrows to show emotion. Great suggestions, Sioux.

Pat Wahler said...

I have the whole series and can't recommend them enough. Even if I don't use one of their suggestions, it gets me thinking about other ways to express what I'm trying to show (not tell).

Lynn said...

Great post! It's great having a resource for one particular thing... I have way too many resources... ha.

Mary Horner said...

Great post, SIoux, and what a great reminder that emotions are expressed through nonverbal communication. I don't have a problem with eyebrows, but I do see a lot of writers who use eyes to express their characters' emotions in ways that aren't possible. "Her eyes flew across the room in search of ... " which isn't physically possible.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sheila--Yes, we meet once a week at a place that does eyebrow threading. You know, so we can really hone in on eyebrows while we admit our failings. The first step--admit we have a problem.

Linda--You rely on so many different versions of body language. You forget. I get to read some of your pieces before they get published, so don't lump yourself in with eyebrowaholics like me.

Pat--I think I might have to invest in more of the series. The one volume I have--I love.

Lynn--But aren't most writers hoarders? I imagine all of us have a few too many books. I guess I should join THAT 12-step program as well. Or, I could start building a shed out of all my excess books...

Mary--You mean that eyes can't grow wings and start flapping across the room?


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