How to Use Body Language in Writing

What is body language, and how can you use it in your writing? It is not enough to rely on dialogue alone to convey what your characters are feeling. From facial expressions to body movements, and gestures, most people constantly throw off clues to what they’re thinking and feeling.

Before we learn to talk, we use body language to express what we need and want. Even after we learn to talk, we continue to use gestures, movements, and facial expressions that we don’t express verbally. In fact, over 90% of our communication is nonverbal. That is why it is so important to include body language in your writing to provide your readers with a realistic experience.

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Elements of Body Language

There are many components of body language, and these are a few of them.

Facial Expressions

Some people show every emotion on their faces while others show none. Still, others have micro-expressions that your brain automatically decodes. Does your character smile with her mouth and eyes? Do they make eye contact, blink, or look away? Do they bite their lip or cover their mouth when they laugh?

Gestures

Gestures involve using motions of the limbs or body as a means of expression. Does your character swing his arms when he walks? Swipe her hair back from her eyes?

Posture

Posture is the position or bearing of the body. In other words, how we hold our bodies when standing or sitting. Does your character lean forward when he talks? Does she stand straight or slouch down to hide?

Personal Space

Personal Space is the study of the effect of the spatial separation individuals naturally maintain. For most people, 18 inches is the desired distance between themselves and others. For example, close proxemics between characters suggests intimacy while distance implies fear of a threat. Beware of cultural differences, what is common in one culture could be taboo in another.

Touch

Touch involves using your hands to handle or feel, usually intending to understand or appreciate. Does your character touch people when he talks? Does she run her hands through her partner’s hair?

Voice

Voice is the sound produced by your body. You may have heard the expression. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. How does your character use their voice when they are angry, happy, or nervous? Do they stumble over their words, lower their voice or squeak?

Behaviour

We define behaviour as how someone conducts oneself or behaves. A character’s actions can be meaningful. Do they skip instead of walking, take long pauses before speaking, or knock three times on the door before leaving the house? All these actions can convey emotions.

Watching Body Language

People watching is a great way to pick up on body language. Go to the beach, a park, or anywhere people gather and watch how they interact.

People use an average of 50% body language to 50% verbal language when communicating. The more you try to incorporate body language into your writing, the better you will get at it. If you don’t get it the first time, then keep trying.

Types of Body Language

This is the first in a series of blogs about the use of body language in writing. Some of the other forms of body language that we will discuss regarding writing include aggression, attention, deception, defence, domination, and emotion.

Last Words on Body Language

The things your characters don’t say can sometimes carry more information than the things they say. Words lie, but body language doesn’t. How do you use body language in your writing? Let me know in the comments.

Take Care

Linda

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Body Language Series

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

Body Language

Open and Closed

Aggressive and Defensive

Deceptive

Dominant and Submissive

Relaxed and Ready

Romantic

Attentive and Evaluative

Emotional

Greeting

Power

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