1. JosephMarch
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    JosephMarch Active Member

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    Nodding, shaking head, sighing

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by JosephMarch, Sep 12, 2015.

    I feel like I have these in my WIP a LOT. They say a lot in silence of no dialogue. How much is too much?

    ETA: 19 'nodded' in 57,000 (so far) words
     
  2. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    They're 'invisible tags'. I wouldn't worry about them too much. 19 in 57,000 words is nothing, so long as they're not all in the same paragraph.

    Every bugger seems to skim read novels these day anyway. I don't know why we writers bother agonising over all those words :D
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2015
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  3. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    19 sounds about right. It does annoy me when I read "nodded his head." what else can you nod? Yet, I find this phrase in professional published novels sometimes. So, if your characters are *just* "nodding" then 19 occurrences in a short novel shouldn't be too much to bother the reader as long as, like OurJud said, they're not nodding too close together.
     
  4. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Ha. That's funny. I've never actually thought about it before, but you're completely right. "Nodded his head" feels repetetive, which is why I have always unconsciously gone for the simple "Nodded." On the reverse side of that, you always see "shook his head" because it would be very unclear what was going on if you simply he said "he shook." Is he trembling? Is he convulsing? Is he trying to get dry?
    But it doesn't work both ways. Nodding is exclusive to the head. Shaking is not. I know this is all very obvious, but I'm just now thinking about it for the first time.

    As to the OP - I like to think about how conversations happen in real life. We frequently communicate in non-verbal ways, so I think it's perfectly natural for our characters to do so as well. And 19 in 57,000 words doesn't seem excessive.
     
  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I have a lot of nodding and shaking, too. I have 62 nods, 58 shakes and 77 sighs in 108k dialogue-heavy words. But then I have 106 nos and 28 yeses (guess my characters are negative people) so if I tried to replace the nods and shakes, I'd end up with too much of something else.

    I've never noticed them when I read through my novel (and I do notice repetition in other areas) so I think Our Jud is right - they're largely invisible.
     
  6. JosephMarch
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    JosephMarch Active Member

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    Great, thanks for all the responses. I have shrugging of shoulders, also. But my story starts out with teenagers and ends with a reunion with a lot of left over tension between my two main characters. I guess the silent cues are appropriate for the tone of my book.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I only notice things if they're pet words of the author. For instance on several sites I'm on - one person loves using bark, another rolled her eyes, another grinned. So critiquers are usually going - enough with the barking - or if she rolls her eyes one more time - or have him do something besides grin, please!
    It's never an issue until it's an issue.
     
  8. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I just read one where a character constantly "huffed" and another's mouth "quirked into a smile" all the time. Very annoying.
     
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  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    'Bark' is an odd word. I mean, I'd get it only if the character were a dog-person (ie, a walking hominoid dog in clothing), but a human? It kills any tension that exists.

    "Get away from the fire!" Fred barked.
    Me: *thinks Fred is a talking dog*

    I agree with the 'shake'/'shook' thing. It would be important to specify the head shaking if that's what you're going for. Otherwise I'm going to think the character is convulsing. Nodding, however? We know what we use to 'nod' with, so no need to include 'nodded his/her head.'
     
  10. Adenosine Triphosphate
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    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

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    "You ate all the Oreos," George barked, rolling his eyes into a terrible grin. "Now we'll have to eat you instead!"
     
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  11. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    Same problem over here . . . I have almost every character 'chuckling' after their comments. So annoying. Hopefully someday when I do a second draft (will probably be in the nursing home by then) I'll get rid of them.
     
  12. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    So why do you do it if it's annoying? o_O
     
  13. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    Because everyone is always & eternally happy {insert Big Sigh here}. :):):):)
     
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  14. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Thing is, people do this sort of thing in real life. Little quirks and tics, expressions, both verbal and facial, used over and over again.
    But, just like all the "ums" and "ers", when they are written down, they become conspicuous.
     
  15. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Gaspode, the talking dog in Discworld, goes one better...

    "Woof," said Gaspode.

    This, of course, is when he's trying to conceal his abilities from humans...it usually works, but not always without causing them to wonder about what they've just heard.
     
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  16. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    I use a lot of visual cues and write them down. Nodding, sighing, smiling, ear movements (applicable here), and other cues that reveal and agree with the emotions they are expressing. It also helps to show deceit and certain characters can pick up on that thing really well. As body language is a large part direct communication, it makes perfect sense that leaning in, rising or falling shoulders, concealment of the hands and head tilting are all good indicators in gauging responses.

    They are largely invisible in a sense, but if you use them well - it helps understand the mannerisms and openness of the character. Otherwise, you might as well be writing an IM chat dialogue.
     
  17. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    You have to do this sort of thing. You gotta paint the picture for the reader. Make them envision what's happening.
     
  18. ballislife
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    ballislife New Member

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    I think as long as they are fairly separated (so avoid having characters nod six times on a page), it is pretty acceptable :).
     

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