How to Use Deceptive Body Language In Writing

Woman with iphone in front of her face.

Have you ever been able to tell that someone is lying by their deceptive body language? Maybe it was the way they moved their bodies or hands when they talked. Or maybe it was the expressions that crossed their faces that gave them away.

In writing, you want to show your readers that a character is deceptive without telling them. But how can you implement that to deepen your story? In this post, we are going to explore deceptive body language and how you can use it to intensify your writing.

Writers use dialogue tags like ‘said’ or ‘asked’, but they never use ‘lied’.

“I was at the movies,” Martha lied.

You’ve probably never seen a sentence like this. Well… maybe you have, but it is not common. Why is that? Because we need to show our readers how our characters are feeling, not tell them.

“I was at the movies.” Martha’s voice was higher pitched than normal. She blinked and forced a smile.

While this is not a perfect sentence, it shows the reader that Martha is lying without telling. Here are two ways we can use deception in writing:

Non-Congruent Gestures

Non-congruent gestures are a clue for liars. They occur when a person’s gestures do not match the words they are saying. For instance, a person who says ‘Yes’ may nod their head ‘No’ or make a hand gesture instead of nodding or clapping. Or a person can say “I’m fine, nothing’s wrong” when you can clearly tell that there is.

Looking to the Right

They trained law enforcement officers to read body language. They believe that when a person lies; they use the left part of their brain to create the deception which causes their eyes to gaze to the right.

It is an instinctive action to look to the right when one is using the left side of their brain (the logic and analytic side) and to look to the left when using the right side of your brain (the emotional and creative side).

This is something that you can incorporate into your writing. If you have a scene where one character is lying to the other, you could have them look to the right to show deception.

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Examples of Deceptive Body Language

Actors study body language and facial expressions to incorporate realism into their characters. We can do the same in writing to infuse deception into our characters. There are many ways to show deceptive body language or lying

Anxiety Clues

One common way to tell if a character is being deceptive by their body language is to use anxiety cues. Some common anxiety cues are:

  • Sweating
  • Tension
  • Rubbing the back of the neck
  • Sudden movements
  • Body twitches
  • Voice changes
  • Faster speech
  • Chewing on the inside of one’s mouth
  • Shoving hands in pockets
  • Fidgety hands
Woman rolling her eyes with her arms crossed over her chest.

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay.

Lying Clues

For a reader to determine if a character is lying, it is important to note their body language and facial movements. Some common lying cues are:

  • tiny movements
  • blinking
  • twitching face
  • forced smiles
  • exaggerated hand gestures
  • clumsy or jerky movements
  • halted or hesitant speech
  • looking distracted
  • avoiding eye contact
  • shifting weight from one foot to another
  • folded arms and legs
  • shoulder shrugs
  • rubbing their eyes
  • pressing their lips together
  • leaving or avoiding the situation
  • looking away briefly

The Exceptions

Mind you, there are those that are quite good at covering deceptive body language, such as psychopaths, criminals and sales people (just kidding). If your character is one of them, your may have to find other ways to show when they are deceptive.

Last Words on Deceptive Body Language

In this fourth installment of the body language series, we discussed deceptive language in writing. How do you let your readers know when a character is lying? Let me know in the comments. Be sure to come back in the next few weeks for more body language tips for your novel.

Take Care



Feature photo by Gerd Altmann 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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