For my 18th birthday, my parents asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted a makeover. You know, have some person tell me what make-up colors look good for my skin and eye color and how to apply it to my face. That kind of thing.
So, we went to this local woman who had me sit down in front of a magnifying mirror and started looking at my face. The only thing I remember from that day was one comment she made. She was shaking her head as she was studying my face and said, “You know, you really shouldn’t smile so much because you are starting to get laugh lines around your mouth.”
I started to laugh. I thought she was kidding. Not smile? Are you for real? What’s the point of life if you don’t smile and laugh?
Thankfully, I didn’t take her sage advice. And yes, I do have some laugh lines, which I’m proud of, usually. (Although some creams wouldn’t hurt to lessen them a little. Is that shallow?)
I think that’s why those Beverly Hills housewives look so strange to our eyes, or at least mine. It’s not that they’ve had Botox or plastic surgery, I’ll support anything that makes a person feel good about themselves. It’s because they went a little too far. They cut away their individuality. They cut away the things that make them unique, different, special. Now they all look the same. Some have brown hair with long hair extensions and some have blonde hair with long hair extensions, and they all have the same wide-eyed, permanent smiling faces-even when they’re not smiling. Their face is pulled so tightly that they can’t seem to look relaxed.
I think it does pertain to writing. We all don’t want our novels to look the same. We want our stories to have laugh lines and maybe even some grey hairs. We want depth. We want to feel that our characters had to work through their lives. We want to care.
Maybe that’s one of the things, (the many things), that made Harry Potter so interesting. His scar made him different, not perfect, but even more, it made him special. We wanted him to be victorious. We cheered for him- our flawed, courageous underdog.
So, just like my 18-year-old self laughed at this crazy woman who told me to smile less, we should see that when a character is too perfect, or too refined, it gives the feeling of a shallow and superficial story that is difficult to embrace.
Show your characters’ faults. The reader will care and will root for you and your characters’ success. Isn’t that what we want from our reader?
We have to be able to grow up. Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
Love yourself- laugh lines and all!