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Posts tagged ‘writing 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

Work like a visual artist to develop new writing muscles

On a recent trip to Canada, I noticed a woman painting along the shore of the lake. She had her easel set up and was capturing the snow-capped mountains rising up out of the water. I noticed how she would look at the scene in front of her as if memorizing a detail, then bow her head to canvas and work on a section for several minutes before raising her head to memorize another detail of the setting.

This reminded me of advice I once read from author and poet Priscilla Long in The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life. To learn how to write body language in your scenes, she suggests the following exercise: Go to a public place like a coffee shop and observe two people as they talk to each other. Notice their body language. Write in your notebook all the body language you see. Read more