Wednesday, May 20, 2009

No blushing: what?

YA author Christina Dudley blogged about a recent list of Things You Should Not Do in a Novel, which she picked up from an agent’s presentation at a writing conference.

Among them was “Don't have characters cry” and "Don't have characters blush.” Well. I think blushing is underrated. My female characters always blush, and I’ll tell you why: I freaking blush all the time, and I hate it. Blushing carries a bunch of feelings with it: shame, excitement, sexuality, hang ups, anger. I could sit with someone and make my face impassive, but I cannot control my blushing. I do this all the time. Every time I feel my face color, I actually think, “I bet it’s just a little, I bet they can’t see it.” Right. They can see it. I'm a total goner in social and business situations because I can't control my blush. It’s a curse. And I see no reason for my female characters not to be cursed that way as well.

If your characters don’t blush, what do they do, then? Twist their hands? Look askance? Narrow their eyes? Other actions could accompany a blush to make it less overdone. Or is it simply finding another way to describe a blush, like “her cheeks were hot”? Because most people blush, especially those of us who are trying not to let the world see our emotions. I see blushing as a way to convey everything you can’t sort out in words.

If, in fact, blushing is considered cliché, then you could say any other description of physical activity is, too. Perhaps “She blushed furiously at his words,” is sort of disgusting, but surely “Her face flamed in response to his outrageous suggestion” is permissible. Can’t blushing be handled well when it’s showing versus telling?

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