Our clients love to make their characters smile. Maybe they believe as Phyllis Diller said that “a smile is a curve that sets everything straight.” In a book, it can be more of a flat line if a smile is the best the writer can come up with over and over again. In one book we edited, characters smiled more than once on every page.
We recommend our writers branch out by imagining other facial expressions that might express something more nuanced – a smile can be a lot of things – or maybe just find another way to say the character smiled. Failing that, there is the thesaurus.
From multiple sources, synonyms for smile include beam, grin, twinkle, laugh, smirk, simper, be gracious, express friendliness, express tenderness, look amused, look delighted, look happy, look pleased, simper, leer, snicker, and snigger.
All of these alternatives put a different slant on smile. Repeated words can be more boring and it you use them enough, they become meaningless. Here’s an example in which the word “beautiful” is overused: It was a beautiful day. Clare could not believe how beautiful the flowers were in her garden. In particular, her multi-colored day lilies seemed to capture the beauty of the day. Orange-, yellow- and peach-colored blossoms made a beautiful display against the blue sky.
Here is the same graph employing synonyms: It was a dazzling day. Clare could not believe how beautiful the flowers were in her garden. In particular, her multi-colored day lilies seemed to capture the essence of the morning. Orange-, yellow- and peach-colored blossoms made a brilliant display against the blue sky.
See how the synonyms add to the richness of the prose. Dazzling is a synonym for beautiful, but a dazzling day is different from a beautiful one. Dazzling connotes a freshness or newness, as well as bright sunshine. A beautiful day is merely pleasing to the eye.
It is really worth taking a look at the words you use over and over. Smile may not be your go-to word but what do you use over and over again? How can you get out of your writing rut?