And Do It Subtly
By Annette Rey
You can read online articles and books about the craft of writing, attend writing workshops, speak with other writers, take writing courses, and all of that I suggest you do. But, what about those other moments in your life when you are sitting quietly and idly pick up a non-writing related book? How can you make those books writing-useful?
Perusing through the book Body Language by Dr. Glenn Wilson, it occurred to me how we writers can make use of information packed in practical books. As I read the material, my mind began creating lively and descriptive sentences for character interaction. We can insert meaning, motive, love, hate, regret, attraction, and more – and do so subtly – just by mentioning a character move, a raised eyebrow, a one-sided smile…
Body language is “emotional signaling” – that’s pretty basic and something to remember as you create the scenes in your story. Watch how animals read each other. If your character is deaf, they are acutely aware of body language. Cultural influences can make a hand signal one thing and something else in a different place in the world. Do your research.
Turn the volume off on the TV and see if you can interpret what is being said on the news, at least the mood and spirit of the speaker. If you can record the segment, then go back and see how spot on you were…or…were you way off? Is that your mistake or was the person speaking being deliberately evasive in speech but his body language defied him? Put this experiment into writing, then translate it into a piece of your work.
Go into a crowd and see if you can determine the relationship between people by the amount of distance they keep between themselves. Do you see a couple mirroring one another’s movements? That is body language that is telling the other “I’m just like you” and “You can feel comfortable with me.” Who speaks in high volume – a person who is insecure and is trying to be noticed or a dominant type of person taking control?
Is your character wanting to protect himself? Have him cross his arms over his chest. Is she innocent? Have her spread her hands wide open. Have your deceitful character not look directly into the eyes of someone to whom he is speaking; have him turn his head away as he speaks; have the listener strain forward to hear him.
Your character’s choice of automobile can be an extension of his body language. Is he driving a Porsche? His posture is erect and confident. Does he pick up his date in a clunker? His behavior might be hesitant, apologetic. He might even stutter. Sure, you can have a confident man driving a clunker. Then see that you put that into his profile so the reader knows where he is coming from.
The choice of dress, makeup and so much more will make your readers feel they know the person inside your character. They might even recognize themselves.
It also occurred to me that anyone can study this book and others like it and learn to become better daily communicators (as well as interpreters). One could even use such methods to attract a mate if you don’t currently have one. You may then create your own romance memoir or use such material, gathered honestly (as you sincerely love the person), to write a “You CAN Attract the Love of Your Life” manual.
Besides picking up all this information to lure your readers, the bonus of a book in progress would be unfolding as you move along.
Now that’s a valuable thought, isn’t it?
You include some interesting points- especially remembering the cultural differences in body language. Research is so important! It made me think of a friend who grew up in Zambia who was just talking about how there were three different forms of greetings/ handshakes depending on situations and relationships and how she was always concerned about getting the wrong one. 🙂
And the book told another story about Captain Cook possibly being killed because he offered the natives of Hawaii the traditional English handshake. They interpreted it as a sign of aggression. So, yes, we need to research our work and keep writing!
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Oh my, yes!