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View Full Version : Stupid question but it's been driving me up the wall



Susan Lanigan
11-06-2012, 02:56 AM
Hi all

My question relates to registering emotions by mentioning a change in complexion e.g.
He was white-faced;
Two little spots of pink appeared on her cheeks and she sucked in her mouth;
She blushed;
It was quite amusing to watch him turn purple;

I have a character who is dark-skinned (mid brown) though of mixed race. She is liable to go through plenty of emotions. I never realised before how much I depend on descriptions such as the above to register changing feelings, but that is something I took for granted, being white and writing about white people. Is it customary among writers who are PoC or who habitually work with PoC characters to use descriptions similar to these? Just wondering because there's only so often her "eyes can flash" or her face look "haggard" :)

Anyone else have this issue or is it just me. Anyway, thanks in advance for any feedback available.

thebloodfiend
11-06-2012, 04:14 AM
Interesting question that I've struggled with myself. I just figure out clever ways to express fright or embarrassment that go with the character's personality.

Polenth
11-06-2012, 09:07 AM
I don't tend to describe skin colour changes unless the character is pale, because even if it shows, it won't be the first thing you'd notice. The rule of thumb would be it's more extreme changes that have a chance of showing, not minor embarrassment or feeling a bit poorly. I know if I blush, it doesn't usually show (and I'm a lot lighter than your character).

Things like going pale or turning blue are more likely to show on the lips, as everyone has some non-brown areas there, but that's pretty subtle.

As alternatives to skin changes, consider overall posture and eyes. A suffocating person might claw at their throat to remove the obstruction and their eyes may bulge (as they're panicking). A frightened person will be trembling and wide-eyed. An embarrassed person looks away and shifts on their feet. Maybe they have a nervous habit, like fiddling with their cardigan buttons or chewing their nails.

Susan Lanigan
11-06-2012, 07:11 PM
Thanks guys, appreciate feedback. Looks like "going on being inventive" it is, then :)

Snitchcat
11-13-2012, 07:11 PM
Nervous facial tick? Licking lips? Looking anywhere but at the other person? Dry mouth making her words sound thick, cumbersome and unwieldy? Scratching the back of her hand, but no itch? Itchy elbow(s)? Lots of "ums" and "ahs" and "ers" where normally these wouldn't occur? Coughing? Throat clearing? Gagging swallow before saying something?

:)

Susan Lanigan
11-13-2012, 11:49 PM
Nervous facial tick? Licking lips? Looking anywhere but at the other person? Dry mouth making her words sound thick, cumbersome and unwieldy? Scratching the back of her hand, but no itch? Itchy elbow(s)? Lots of "ums" and "ahs" and "ers" where normally these wouldn't occur? Coughing? Throat clearing? Gagging swallow before saying something?

:)

She's not really the fidgety type, and if her mouth is dry then she's narrating, and if she's narrating all is well because nobody knows what they look like when they're narrating.

Yes! I'll have her NARRATE MORE :D

Thanks for suggestions!

Alessandra Kelley
11-13-2012, 11:55 PM
I did see a person of medium dark complexion pale to a kind of dark yellow once under extreme stress.

There's also facial expression -- someone's face can freeze into a glassy smile, or go blank into a careful poker face. Or posture. Someone can stiffen with annoyance, or get subtly defensive, or relax.

LJ Hall
11-14-2012, 01:37 AM
She's not really the fidgety type, and if her mouth is dry then she's narrating, and if she's narrating all is well because nobody knows what they look like when they're narrating.

Yes! I'll have her NARRATE MORE :D

Thanks for suggestions!

Plus remember that flushing or blushing is an actual physical reaction that can be felt. She could feel her cheeks warm with a blush without having to see a visible reaction.

Brynn
12-13-2012, 05:43 AM
I have a question that I think is closely related enough to tag onto this thread. One of my characters, a vampire, is African-American (probably--I'm in the note-making stage). Caucasian vampires are usually portrayed as extremely pale, because Caucasian dead people are whiter than in life. Would a person with dark skin be any paler in death?

eyebee14
12-13-2012, 05:58 AM
I have a question that I think is closely related enough to tag onto this thread. One of my characters, a vampire, is African-American (probably--I'm in the note-making stage). Caucasian vampires are usually portrayed as extremely pale, because Caucasian dead people are whiter than in life. Would a person with dark skin be any paler in death?

I would assume their skin would look pastey, as if the skin is lifeless, thus their skin is lighter than it would be if they were alive.