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Monday, January 25, 2016

Body Language - Character ER



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NOTE: Character ER is a new feature this year. Once a month you'll see a post to help you dig deeper into your characters.


A character’s dialogue can add humor and suspense (if delivered by an antagonist). Two characters can exchange witty banter, argue, or whisper sweet nothings. Dialogue pushes a story forward. You can’t have a book without it.

A character’s emotion influences the story, fuels scenes, and builds connections with readers. Without emotions, we would have dull stories and robotic characters. We don’t want that!

A character’s body language is also important because it compliments dialogue and reveals emotions. Whenever our characters say or do something, whenever they feel a certain way, we should add physical cues to drive home those feelings and actions. 



Below are some emotions with physical reactions.

Anger – clenching of jaw and fists, a puffing up of the chest and squaring of shoulders, spine rod-straight, arms crossed, flaring of nostrils, seething, pacing, glaring, heart pounding, blood roaring, heat rising up neck and face

Curiosity/Suspicion – head tilting, pursing of lips, scratching head or temple, tapping fingers, quirking a brow, squinting eyes

Fear – cowering, avoiding eye contact, slumped shoulders, body shaking, sweaty hands, dry mouth, fast breathing, heart racing

Grief – sobbing, whole body shaking, quivering lips, tearing eyes, heavy heart, shuffling footsteps, low shoulders

Love/flirting – heart fluttering, breath catching, glowing, blushing, laughing, winking, lip biting, butterflies in the stomach



QUESTION: Do you forget to add body language and other physical reactions?


54 comments:

  1. That would be important to add body language in character development. Mskes them more life like I think.

    Betty

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  2. I reconise "The Fear" body lanuage, living alone and not seeing many people certainhly brings fear into life. I know how to covercome it but purring it into practice is another thing.
    Great post and most interesting.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Fear comes into life in many qays. It's probably the most common felling and body language we experience.

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  3. Good reminder on using body language...

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  4. Yes, body language tells so much about a character's emotions. It adds to their words, gives a clearer image of the person. Great advice, Chrys. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. I always have to go back through my writing to add more body language.

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  5. Thanks for the list! Body language is important. And it needs to be more than nodding.

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    1. Exactly. At first my chatacters nod a lot. lol

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  6. Yes body language tells a lot. You don't have to tell the reader what your character is feeling because the character is showing it with their body language. I love using The Emotions Thesaurus because it's body language 101 helps to add more depth to your character(s).

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    1. Show don't tell. ;) I need to check out The emotion Thesaurus.

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  7. Body language adds a whole lot indeed, sometimes I can be skimpy on it I think.

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    1. I can be skimpy with the first draft. While I revise, I look for ways to add more.

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  8. Body language is one I have to be careful because it is really easy to over use some... teens and eye rolling... nodding... It is a good place though, to give a character a tic. A single character who does something (especially if it is a tell--a child who looks at his feet when he lies... stuff like that)

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    1. Nodding is one that I overuse. Using body language as a personal tic is perfect.

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  9. Great tips! Essential, I think, if you want the reader to know your character as well as you do. What would a room full of test-takers be without at least one who slumps? ;-)

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    1. I love that! There's always one person/student who slumps during a test.

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  10. Body language is something I try to use as much as I can. Instead of saying someone felt angry, I try to show it with their body language.

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    1. Show don't tell. That's why it's important. I still put in those telling sentences but beta readers can help me spot them. :)

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  11. This is a great tip sheet for adding that extra dimension to emotions of our characters. Thanks, Chrys! Interestingly, I haven't written very many angry characters. Maybe I should channel some anger into a character or two---LOL :)

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    1. I've written about a lot of angry characters. I guess I can be an angry person. LOL

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  12. These are some great tips and important things to consider in novel writing. But I think I might avoid 'butterflies in the stomach' because I have seen quite a few reviewers complain about the overuse of this body language in relation to feelings of love and excitement. One even joked that the character needed to go see a doctor with the amount of animals living in her chest.

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    1. That's very true. It's important to not use cliches or bizarre descriptions.

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  13. I think I do pretty good at adding body language. But it's also easy to forget at times. As a writer, we know how our character is feeling/thinking. I can see how disastrous it would be if we forget to illustrate that. I will be paying special attention as I write my next chapter. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Exactly. We see and know our characters but sometimes that doesn't translate with out words.

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  14. I may overdo this a bit. ;) At least my editors tell me I do.

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    1. Overdo body language? That's new. :P

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  15. You always have such helpful features. Love this ER and looking forward to what you have planned for the rest of the year.
    Very cool that you're starting up an IWSG newsletter!

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    1. Thank you, Julia! I'm glad you like this new little feature. I had fun thinking of the posts for this one. :)

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  16. It's only been fairly recently I've added much of any realistic or frequent body language, instead of either glossing over something or using a line like "[Name] was very angry." As an Aspie, depicting emotions just doesn't come naturally for me, since it's not in my brain wiring to think about and experience emotions the same way a neurotypical would. I may never be perfect at it, since I can't change the way my brain has been wired since creation, but at least I can make the effort to improve and get close to the ability of a neurotypical writer.

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    1. A lot of Writer's find it hard to add emotion or physical descriptions because they don't feel comfortable with emotions or don't like to show them. I'm such a writer. But I've worked on adding these things to my writing.

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  17. Considering we say more non verbally than we do verbally, I think it is very important to add this...unless you are Spock, or my boss

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    1. LOL. Spock is one who won't have physical reactions.

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  18. Excellent post! I'm big on using body language. Sometimes so big I forget to even use a little of dialogue tags! =P

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    1. You swapped one for the other. lol I used to have both problems. :p

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  19. I do often forget to add body language and physical descriptions in my first drafts, which often seem like there are two people talking an empty room. I always have to go back and "fill in the blanks," so to speak.

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    1. I have to fill in the blanks too. :)

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  20. I try to add body language to help move a scene forward. But I have my problems with this.

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    1. Body language can help a lot with scenes. :)

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  21. My biggest problem is being diversity with body language. Sometimes I get into ruts and use the same stuff over and over.

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    1. That happens. It's not until he edit when we notice that and can fix it.

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  22. Hi Chrys ... it's so easy to use body language, without realising what effect it has on the people around you - something I must pay attention to and learn from

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. You're right. We're never conscious of our body language.

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  23. I've started assigning body language/emotional reactions to each character. It makes them more unique and helps me keep it all straight. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  24. I rely on the Emotion Thesaurus, it's gold. Body language and reactions during a conversation are so important. Part of the show don't tell. When writing a first draft the tell part is always what I have to edit out! LOL Talk about work. Someday I hope to write that way naturally! Do you think it's possible? :)

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    1. I need this thesaurus! I'm not sure if it's possible...I haven't gotten there yet. lol

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  25. Those are some nice physical reactions you listed. I find that many people mask their fear by putting up a false front of being brave, like they might puff up their chest more or speak in a louder voice. So sometimes physical features might be exaggerated to compensate for what's really going on internally.

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    1. That's true. But with a characters whose head we're in we can't do a false front. We have to share that fear...and then they can put up a false front to the other characters. ;)

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Please tell me what you think. I love to chat! :)

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