1. 596
    Offline

    596 New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0

    Describing body language

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by 596, Oct 25, 2011.

    So I'm writing my first ever novel and I'm trying to think up more ideas of how to describe a persons emotion... I'm using eyebrow movement, cheek movement, eye moveentm smile, frown etc. too much.. is there any other ways of describing body language people can think of?
     
  2. Victoria Baye
    Offline

    Victoria Baye Member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Hotlanta
    Some people have mannerisms that they use when they feel certain emotions. My lip quivers when I get excited/sad/angry or basically feel any strong emotion. Some people rub the back of their neck when they're thinking. Some people shake their foot/leg when they get nervous/impatient. Some people wring their hands when nervous.

    Try to notice the different things that your family members/friends do when they experience certain emotions. A lot of little mannerisms are infinitely personal.

    I suggest trying to write down each of your character's weird little ways of expressing emotion. Don't give each of them 12 different tics, just maybe one or two for your main characters. And then try to write down the general ways that people respond to emotion: cowering/shaking when nervous, tensing when angry, etc.

    Also, maybe try reading a book about how to read body language, which will help you to decide how your character will likely react to any sort of emotion. Try to strike a balance between how people will generally respond to an emotion, and how a specific character responds to the emotion.
     
  3. 596
    Offline

    596 New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks, that gave me some good ideas :)
     
  4. Jhunter
    Offline

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,233
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Southern California
    Body language is not limited to just movements. So do not forget about sounds people make. Also you do not always have to rely on body language descriptions, you can also use thoughts.
     
  5. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    If you're describing someone other than the POV, try to let dialog do some of the heavy lifting. If someone yells, "What did you just call my mother?" you don't have to tell us he's balling his fists or his face is darkening.
     
  6. Jhunter
    Offline

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,233
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Southern California
    Personally, I would prefer: "What did you just call my mother!?" shouted Bob, clenching his fists.

    Instead of: "What did you just call my mother!?" shouted Bob.

    I prefer the added detail. The three extra words flesh it out more in my opinion.
     
  7. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    If you have 'shouted' as well as fist-clenching, don't over-egg the pudding by putting in an exclamation mark as well--and certainly not !?
    I think it's great you are considering body language, also don't forget smell--sorry, don't want to take this off topic, but it's these things that can get forgotten. Watching people helps, too. There's also blushing and hand movements, arm and leg crossing, leaning forward or back, invading personal space and mimicking.
     
  8. 596
    Offline

    596 New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would usually write the above as this..

    "What did you just call my mother!?" Bob clenched his fists.

    Is this a good style? I'm writing a fast paced, noir-esque sci-fi book.

    To one of the above comments, I do indeed use a lot of dialogue and in some cases I wouldn't have added the "Bob clenched his fists." part.. I guess it depends on how it's flowing..

    I also never used things such as "he shouted" "he said".. though if I really have to get a shout across or something i'll type it like this..

    He raised his voice. "What did you just call my mother!?"

    Thanks for tips everyone though, some things have come in handy
     
  9. Jhunter
    Offline

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,233
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Southern California
    You really should at least use "he said," no dialogue tag looks and reads extremely awkward.

    Edit: Or at least "Bob said."
     
  10. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    I disagree. You don't always need a dialog tag, especially in the above where we know who's speaking (as long as we know who "he" is). A dialog tag at that point is redundant. If you're worried it's a vague pronoun, just say "Bob raised his voice." But the above doesn't read awkwardly to me at all.
     
  11. Jhunter
    Offline

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,233
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Southern California
    Yes, I know you do not always need dialogue tags. But in this instance we actually do not know who is talking, since it is only one line of dialogue (I understand we know since it is our example, but that doesn't count, the reader would not). So for that reason I would use a dialogue tag this time. This also reads weird to me no matter what, but I realize it could just be personal preference.

    OP's example:

    "What did you just call my mother!?" Bob clenched his fists.


    Something like this would read better in my opinion,

    Bob clenched his fists, "What did you just call my mother!?"

    Or

    "What did you just call my mother!?" said Bob, clenching his fists.

    Or

    Bob walked over and clenched his fists.

    "What did you just call my mother!?"

    Or

    "What did you just call my mother!?"

    Bob walked over while clenching his fists.
     
  12. Jhunter
    Offline

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,233
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Southern California
    Yes, I know you do not always need dialogue tags. But in this instance we actually do not know who is talking, since it is only one line of dialogue (I understand we know since it is our example, but that doesn't count, the reader would not). So for that reason I would use a dialogue tag this time. This also reads weird to me no matter what, but I realize it could just be personal preference.

    OP's example:

    "What did you just call my mother!?" Bob clenched his fists.


    Something like this would read better in my opinion,

    Bob clenched his fists, "What did you just call my mother!?"

    Or

    "What did you just call my mother!?" said Bob, clenching his fists.

    Or

    Bob walked over and clenched his fists.

    "What did you just call my mother!?"

    Or

    "What did you just call my mother!?"

    Bob walked over while clenching his fists.
     
  13. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    Total agreement that the speaker needs to be identified. I would say that "Bob clenched his fists" and drop the "Bob said," but that's just personal preference. I've seen published books that go one or the other and some that use both at once.
     
  14. 596
    Offline

    596 New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    yeah, the speaker is identified by just saying Bob clenched his fists i feel. I think said, shouted etc. don't really fit well with my story, it slows the pace down a lot
     
  15. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    This is great advice. I wish I'd heard it before or maybe had thought of it myself. :) I do okay with expressions and emotions in writing but would love to improve this area because it can really help make a character come to life in a readers mind.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,910
    Likes Received:
    5,437
    I would lose the question-and-exclamation punctuation in the Bob example, and pick just one of them. Also, you can use just plain actions instead of specific body-language actions:

    Bob put his fork down. Pushing his chair back, he asked, "What did you just call my mother?"
     

Share This Page