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Posts tagged ‘body language’

Writing nonverbal cues to enrich your characters’ lives

I just finished a fantastic online class with Margie Lawson called, “Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist.” I highly recommend any of Margie’s classes–they’re like taking a Ph.D level course in how to empower your character’s emotions with tons of hands-on practice.

One of the tools she shared at the end of class is The Center for Nonverbal Studies. It’s a fabulous site that includes a nonverbal dictionary, a page on the nonverbal brain, and even an in-depth explanation of the “adam’s apple jump,” which, according to the site, is “an unconscious sign of emotional anxiety, embarrassment, or stress. At a business meeting, e.g., a listener’s Adam’s apple may inadvertently jump should he or she dislike or strongly disagree with a speaker’s suggestion, perspective, or point of view.”

The nonverbal dictionary lists gestures, signs, and body language cues. I’m reading through the lists and making notes of anything that catches my interest or that I can see one of my character’s doing. For example, under “Jaw-Droop” I found this usage explanation:

The jaw-droop is a reliable sign of surprisepuzzlement, or uncertainty. The expression is often seen in adults and children who a. have lost their way (e.g., in airports), or b. are entering or walking through unfamiliar, crowded, or potentially threatening places (e.g., darkened restaurants, taverns, and bars).

You’ll even find a bit of history in the nonverbal dictionary. Under Lawn Display: “Lawns mark territory and betoken status. Each year, Americans buy an estimated 500,000 plastic pink flamingo ornaments to mark their yard space–and to provide tangible evidence that, “This land is mine.” Read more

Writing body language that empowers your character’s emotions

Let’s face it, writing body language is hard. In my first drafts, I either try to stay away from writing body language, or I just face the fact that it will be all cliched and awful and I’ll have to rewrite it from the ground up.

Thanks to writing teacher Margie Lawson, I’ve been learning tips for writing better body language and using tools like back-loaded sentences, cadence, and rhetorical devices.

For tips on writing body language with examples and break downs of those examples, read Margie’s latest post here.

Also, check out my earlier post, “Character emotions: two ways to write about the body,” that shows how author Dorothy Allison writes body language.

If you’d like to share some of your experiences or tips about writing about body language, please do so in the comments below.