How to Use Aggressive and Defensive Body Language in Writing

Aggressive and Defensive

Have you ever ducked to avoid a punch? Maybe you haven’t, but one of your characters might have taken or thrown a punch. Writing nonverbal cues is a challenge for many writers.

In this post, we’ll discuss aggressive and defensive body language and how they can enhance your story.

Aggressive modes are offensive modes. Using aggressive body language is crucial if you are writing an angry, confrontational scene. In what way would you depict your character acting aggressively?

When somebody is about to attack, they give visual signals. For your writing to be realistic, these signals must be incorporated. Readers need to see how the characters are feeling, not be told. (Remember, the show don’t tell rule).

Facial Signals

One way to show aggressive body language is through facial signals. Face movements such as frowns, pursed lips, reddening of the cheeks, sneers, clinched jaws, eye contact with a squint, and jerking of the head towards you in an aggressive manner.

Image by Ospan Ali from Unsplash.

Body Signals

Body signals also show aggression. One character walks up to another and gets right in their face or bumps chests or touches another without permission.

The closing or invasion of personal space or the repositioning of feet for stability also shows aggression. Some characters may even get a bit ‘dancey’ or bouncy with their feet, much like a boxer. Also head butting gestures, kicking, etc. without making physical contact with you.

Image by kalhh from Pixabay.

Hand Signals

Hand gestures are often used to incite another into a physical confrontation, from the use of “flipping someone off” with the flagging of the middle finger, to hand gang signs, thrusting of arms to the ever popular head roll/thrust followed by verbal insults.

Another obvious great indicator is the mock attacks such as shadow boxing, slamming a fist on the table (wall, door, etc.).

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Examples of Aggressive Body Language

What is an example of aggressive body language?  Some examples could include:

  • clenching of fists (ready to strike)
  • spreading of the body for stability.
  • redness of the face
  • lowered brow
  • showing teeth
  • scowling
  • sneering

What is Defensive Body Language?

A defensive mode is a self-preservation mode. A character who uses defensive body language expresses feelings of physical or emotional threats.

There are many situations when they might need to use defensive body language, but the most common of these is when they are feeling threatened or being judged.

Facial Signals

During a fight, characters will ensure that they protect the jaw/nose region. They could scan the room with their eyes looking for an escape route or exit in case they needed to flee.

Image by Alexander Krivitskiy from Unsplash.

Body Signals

When a character feels their personal space being invaded they may cower or curl up to protect vital body organs. They may curl up in a ball and tuck their head in or even become stiff as a board. They could also stand with their arms drawn out or cross their arms or lean away from the person who is speaking to them.

Characters could also put an object like a chair, table, or even a bicycle between them and the person or situation that is making them uncomfortable. The arms also act as defensive barriers.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Hand Signals

Characters will also grip bags and backpacks tighter with their hands or draw them close to their body. They could even grip their keys in between their fingers to use as a weapon if necessary. Tapping fingers could also show nervousness or fear.

Keys in someones hands

Image by Sephelonor from Pixabay.

Examples of Defensive Body Language

What is an example of defensive body language? Examples of defensive body language include:

  • arms crossed across the chest
  • moving away from an aggressor
  • darting eyes
  • curling in a ball
  • stiff posture
  • Hands protecting vulnerable organs
  • Rocking back and forth

Last Words on Aggressive and Defensive Body Language

In this third installment of the body language series we discussed aggressive and defensive body language in writing.

When you learn how to effectively use defensive and aggressive body language it will help your reader understand what your characters are feeling. Try these tips to incorporate nonverbal cues into your text and you’ll find yourself writing better than ever. How do you use body language in your writing? Let me know in the comments.

Take Care



Feature photo by Jonathan Alvarez from Pixabay.



Body Language Series

Missed any segments in the body language series? You can catch up here:

Body Language

Open and Closed

Aggressive and Defensive


Dominant and Submissive

Relaxed and Ready


Attentive and Evaluative





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