Fixing the grinning bobblehead character


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Thread: Fixing the grinning bobblehead character

  1. #1

    Fixing the grinning bobblehead character

    In a different thread I complained (a lot) about characters who were described as grinning and smiling far too often. Like adverb overuse, having characters grin and/or bob their heads can dilute what the passage is trying to achieve.

    Here is an example from the first book in The Heaven Trilogy by Ted Dekker. A detective has just arrived to question a possible witness at her home.

    She walked to the door and pulled it open. A dark-haired man with slicked-back hair and wire-framed spectacles stood there, grinning widely. His eyes were very green.
    She allows him to come in, etc. and...

    "I just want to make sure that I have the right person before I fire away, you know." He was still wearing the wide grin.
    And not much further into the conversation, then...

    "Just a few questions, and I'll be out of your hair," the cop said, that smile stubbornly stuck on his face..."
    By the time that there is this much grinning for no reason I start worrying that the character is a lunatic or a serial killer. It seems, though, that Ted's characters just paste on grins a lot. And Ted isn't alone in doing this.

    So in case someone's looking for an article that helps out with this problem. Here is one that I found that's helpful.

    #Writing 50,000 Inimitable Smiles by Margie Lawson

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Foxee View Post
    In a different thread I complained (a lot) about characters who were described as grinning and smiling far too often.

    #Writing 50,000 Inimitable Smiles by Margie Lawson
    Nice blog there. I saved it to my Writing folder.

    You concerned me, so I exported my WIP from Scrivener to a Word doc and did a global replace for "smile". Characters smile 57 times in 98K words halfway into the 20th chapter. We're talking almost three smiles per chapter, on average, although I'm certain no one smiles in some chapters.

    I have no idea if I'm over or under. What's the Goldilocks factor on smiles? This could lead me to a couple of hours of Googling!

    ETA: I'm happy to report I don't have a single grin.

    I have 52 smiles and 9 grins in my first novel, at just over 100K words. It looks like I'm consistent.

  3. #3
    More on the subject. Research shows that women average 62 smiles per day, while men average only 8. It looks like Dekker's detective was trying to get his entire allotment out at once so he could relax the rest of the day.

    This stat gives us an easy out. STOP writing female characters. The darned chicks have to smile too much.

    From Eric Savitz in Forbes,3/22/2011:

    I started my exploratory journey in California, with an intriguing UC Berkeley 30-year longitudinal study that examined the smiles of students in an old yearbook, and measured their well-being and success throughout their lives. By measuring the smiles in the photographs the researchers were able to predict: how fulfilling and long lasting their marriages would be, how highly they would score on standardized tests of well-being and general happiness, and how inspiring they would be to others. The widest smilers consistently ranked highest in all of the above.
    Even more surprising was a 2010 Wayne State University research project that examined the baseball cards photos of Major League players in 1952. The study found that the span of a player’s smile could actually predict the span of his life! Players who didn’t smile in their pictures lived an average of only 72.9 years, while players with beaming smiles lived an average of 79.9 years.

  4. #4
    Criminy, I'm really behind on my quota.

  5. #5
    Are we supposed to worry that the stubborn grin is hiding something? Did the author put that in there on purpose to make us wonder about it and feel a bit uneasy about it? Or no?

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Llyralen View Post
    Are we supposed to worry that the stubborn grin is hiding something? Did the author put that in there on purpose to make us wonder about it and feel a bit uneasy about it? Or no?
    All of his characters do this to some degree so I doubt it's a cunning device. Considering how pronounced it is in the passage I quoted above Ted may be trying to indicate something sinister but in my opinion it's not the best way he could have chosen to go about it.

    And it serves to make the point for the thread.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Foxee View Post
    All of his characters do this to some degree so I doubt it's a cunning device. Considering how pronounced it is in the passage I quoted above Ted may be trying to indicate something sinister but in my opinion it's not the best way he could have chosen to go about it.

    And it serves to make the point for the thread.
    It’s a problem if all the characters, antagonists and protagonists all have a perma-grin, yes. Why??? Do you see this as a quirk of this particular author? Or do you think this happens with lots of authors and it’s a patterns you keep picking up? It could totally be... I don’t read a lot of young authors or newer books... Maybe it’s a pattern you’re picking up in the crime genre? Do you think?

  8. #8
    I believe it is a mistake some authors make until they learn not to make it.

  9. #9
    Lopsided grin and lopsided smile. These descriptions featured so many times in a book I recently read, I stood in front of the mirror to replicate the description.
    Last edited by PiP; February 10th, 2021 at 11:17 AM.
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  10. #10
    I had to smile when I read this thread.
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

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