Body language is the key to human communication.
In fact it has been estimated that only 7% of communication is verbal, or the words we use. While 38% of communication is vocal, or how we say those words, with our pitch and intonation.
Think about it. The same words can mean completely different things when said with different intonations.
I Hate You!
Pretty strong words, right?
If you spoke those words to someone with all the violent force of Hitler behind the microphone those would definitely be fighting words.
However, if you were curled up on the couch in front of the fire and watching the snow fall with your better half, it might be completely different.
“Oh”, she might say after you teased her a bit and before resting her head on your shoulder again, “I hate you, you’re horrible”.
Her body language says something else, doesn’t it?
Body Language Is Worth 1,000 Words
Let’s take a single image from my novel The Vagabond King.
It was the way she argued with her father, standing with her hands on her hips and shaking a long finger at him before throwing her arms above her head in exasperation with his circular logic, saying “holy cats.”
Doesn’t this one image convey so much more than saying “she was really exasperated with him”.
Readers read for the experience.
They read to feel what the experience of living life through another body might be like. And, if you really want to sell the drama to your reader, you need to put them in the skins of your characters.
And the best way to do that is through body language.
Easier Said Than Done?
Maybe or maybe not.
One of the things newer writers get hung up on is that they think they must sit down and write the whole scene perfectly the first time.
Put Your Plan In Place Before You Write The Scene
Develop a tool box of images that imply certain things that you can call on for more detailed description.
- standing with her hands on her hips and shaking a long finger at him before throwing her arms above her head
This image existed in my notes long before I ever figured out where I’d put it.
So did these…
- Her come hither glances.
- His chin began to quiver and his face began to twitch.
- Laying her long fingers on the table like she was trying to brace herself, she paused a moment to control her voice.
- He said with his thick finger suspended like a leaden staff that deadened the air between us.
Think Before You Write
What type of body language might the characters use to portray their emotions?
What type of facial expressions would they use?
What types of word choices would you use to express these details?
Just like a craftsman wouldn’t start a building project without having all the tools and resources he needs, neither should you.
That being said, don’t let the fact that you don’t have all the resources you need stop you from starting your project. You won’t know exactly what you need until you get there.
That’s fine, that’s what revision and rewriting are for.
Click here for a coupon on how to Create Fictional Characters People Pay Money To Read.