Today is National Smile Day. The significance of that got me to thinking.
A smile can be one of the most quickly observed feature on a person, alongside eyes and hair (according to studies and polls). Personally, I’ve always been self-conscious of my smile. All my school pictures show more of a forced grimace as the photographer tried in vain to get me to flash my pearlys. There are few photos in existence that show me truly grinning. Blame it on years of coffee and tea or blame it on my malformed choppers, it’s just not something people will notice about me immediately. Well, perhaps the lack of a big, beaming smile.
That being said, how does it transcend to my characters? Writing romance, there has to be a quick, initial attraction and eyes and hair only go so far. I tend to believe the heroines will notice a smile—or lack of a smile—before they can tell what the hero ate for breakfast or shampoo he showered with.
With few exceptions, my heroines are strong, independent women. They are successful business owners and career gals. They don’t need no stinkin’ man! They might, however, want one if he has a pleasant, heart-racing smile. My heroes are normal guys. They tend to come from blue collar occupations, are devoted to family and their lady love, and oftentimes are lower than the heroine in the pay scale. So what does he have to offer her?
Well, himself of course! Some of my ladies find themselves stuck in some precarious situations and the hero comes riding to the rescue, armed with a disarming smile to quickly earn her trust. Some ladies are content in their station in live and when ‘this guy’ shows up to interrupt her status quo, his charming and polite smile can melt her defenses.
Of course, there are also the other kind of smiles, you know the kind: sardonic, strained, mocking and others. I am guilty of using those in both real life and print, because I tend to be sarcastic and stressed a fair bit of the time. (No, really, it’s true) And I enjoy using a less-than-adoring smile between characters (not necessarily the main h/ h) to create some cool tension.
Used properly, a smile can irritate, upset, cause dread, warm the heart, establish trust, and cement bonds or a host of other emotions. Smiles are a catalyst to create an emotion—positive or negative. Think about that next time you meet someone and flash ‘em a grin.
Tossed together by happenstance, fleeing for their lives and falling in love under the Caribbean sun as paradise turns deadly.