Sunday, August 28, 2011

Character Body Language

In the midst of surfing the internet while trying to find needed focus to finish a new short story, I came across an article that may be of interest to writers:

"What Is Your Body Language Saying?" -- Real Simple Magazine

Every body movement, every expression, tells a story. This article provides excellent information on body language that can be applied to our fictitious characters. Here are a few examples:

Brushing hair off your face - may be a sign of nerves or flirtation.
Nibbling your lips - an attempt to comfort yourself.
Pursing your lips - a clear sign of anger.
Standing with legs apart - dominance and determination.
Hiding your hands - a movement of deceit.

All of these movements, as well as the others listed in the article, provide a means of "showing, not telling" about your character.

There. I'm motivated and focused. Back to writing.


  1. _How to Read a Person Like a Book_ by Nierenberg and Calero has other examples. I think I'd take all such pronouncements with a grain of salt. Some people may cross their arms not to show defiance but because it's comfortable to stand that way. But don't let me discourage your surfing the Internet. ;)

  2. @ed_quixote, good point. I just took it as a starting point for some physical description ideas. You could write a satire about misread body language. :)

  3. Does sitting on your hands when they're cold count as deceit?? 'Cause I do that. A lot.

  4. Incorporating body language in a character is a terrific way to show and not tell. It is also a way to define your character. Almost everyone, real or imagined, has habits:chewing the top of a pen/pencil, twirls ends of hair, jiggling a foot. Some convey emotion others help make them more distinct.

  5. Oh come on, @ed_quixote, I've seen you stand with your arms crossed. There's nothing but defiance shown in that stance. :-) Good article, Jan. Something I really need to consider when writing instead of falling back on my standbys: smile and sigh.

  6. Interesting article, Jan. I'll use a few of those in my stories.

  7. Good tips. I like reading about body language because it does help me to write better characters. Thanks for sharing!