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  1. BillyxRansom

    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    wrong/inconsistent body language?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by BillyxRansom, Apr 25, 2020.

    body language has been the single weakest point in my game, by far, and part of the reason is because i am for whatever reason TERRIFIED of being inconsistent with my body language beats. how do you make sure that the construction of your body language beats reads fluently, or at least coherently? have you ever read a character reacting in body language that felt wrong for that character? how do i avoid this? does it matter? if i somehow "get it wrong" can i put things in that MAKE that make sense, or would that just feel shoehorned in and there's no way to avoid that feeling for the reader?
     
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  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I generally only use body language n certain situations, like if I want something gotten across without dialogue or narration (direct telling), or if I want it made clear that the person is lying in their dialogue.

    Basically when I need to express something through a character it usually feels more natural to do it one way or another, either through dialogue, through action or narration, or through body language. Or that rare moment when I want dialogue to contradict body language, or maybe they say nothing but the body lingo says it all.

    You might be over-using it.
     
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  3. Oxymaroon

    Oxymaroon Contributor Contributor

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    It helps to know a lot about your character that you don't necessarily share directly with reader.
    Obviously, you tell the reader a character's gender, orientation, size, shape, age, physical fitness and occupation, and that all tells us something about how their body moves.
    If you also know their ethnic and economic background, their formative environment and family dynamics, you'll know whether it's appropriate for them to stand close to an interlocutor, whether they use large or small hand-gestures, whether they hold back their emotions or express everything.
    Another good trick is to put yourself in the scene - literally. Read it aloud and note how your own body reacts to the situation. Method-writing, if you will.

    My personal bug-bear is the shrug. I'm constantly having to restrain my characters from shrugging and sighing. And nodding. I've observed that we don't really nod nearly as much in real life as people do in books.
     
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  4. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

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    I want to get better at using body language in my writing because so much of a face to face interaction is non verbal(both body language and tone), it feels like not including it makes the characters seem more 1 dimensional.

    These have a chart showing examples of actions/postures/physical signs associated with emotions
    https://writerswrite.co.za/cheat-sheets-for-writing-body-language/
    https://www.wattpad.com/228901970-vocabulary-word-lists-for-writers-body-language

    This one just gives examples of describing body language, but she gives two different descriptions of the same action and you can see how it gives a different impression:
    https://www.bryndonovan.com/2015/04/10/master-list-of-gestures-and-body-language-for-writers/

    This is about the authors tone, but it easily could be used as a cheat sheet for descriptors of your characters tone of voice:
    https://writerswrite.co.za/155-words-to-describe-an-authors-tone/
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2020
  5. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    People watch. Hopefully the damn stay-at-home edict will lift and when it does just park yourself somewhere and watch people during their exchanges - or even now it's interesting to see people how they behave. I've never seen so many nasty women in my life. Quick to jump on you if you're going the wrong way in the supermarket aisle, quick to line butt, quick to tell you you're too close, you're not wearing a mask, to go home.
    I was in line the other day and some Jamaicans greeted each other - still the fist bump - but one covered his fist with his sweat shirt before he did it! They still wanted to make a connection. Loved it.

    Also you can watch movies - good and bad to get ideas - even turn off the sound and just focus on the way they converse with their body movements. I do this sometimes with foreign films - I watch them without the proper subtitles and try and guess what's going on.
     
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  6. Oxymaroon

    Oxymaroon Contributor Contributor

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    One little boon on the Covid situation is all those close captioned press conferences. I sometimes turn off the sound on those and see if I can read the sign language. (It's easier when you've heard the we'll-get-through-this-together spiel a thousand times.) Different interpreters have different styles and facial expressions. My favourite is a stocky young woman in Ottawa - she does great faces.
     
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  7. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Contributor Contributor

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    I think you mean "interpreting."

    However because sign language uses facial expressions, the size and speed of the signs to convey emotion, the body language does seem really clear compared to verbal communication.

    You can find lots of examples of signing on YouTube. Look at allyballybabe's asl song interpretations (she was a hearing interpreting student when she did most of them) or Sean Forbes' asl videos like "Watch these Hands" . Sean Forbes is a deaf man that's decided to make a living as a musician.

    I'm not sure who else to suggest. There must be more than those two but, who are they? My suggestion is to try and find people who either are children of deaf adults (COADs) or deaf themselves; NOT students. Some students are awesome (ally comes to mind) but others.....

    Scott
     
  8. ruskaya

    ruskaya Senior Member

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    I personally feel that body language is important to note when it is significant, unexpected, and it gives the reader insight into the character or situation. A sigh here and there, sure. But too much of body 'movement' might be distracting, and when it is too much it will likely become inconsistent because hard to keep track. You might get it wrong sometimes, but for the most part I think people will try to understand what you mean, and if it is so "right" that is the only possible word to go there or that it is so obvious, then you could ask why you are even putting there in the first place.
     
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  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think that's a very good question to ask, because it's important to get that right.

    Personally, I believe there is only one way to do it. You have to envision the scene. Don't just decide what should be there to move the plot along, but actually watch it happen in your mind's eye. And wait until it does. Wait until the actions come as clear to you as if you were watching it happen in person.

    What are your characters actually doing while they are speaking? How do they physically react to what's being said or done? Does their facial expression change? How? Do they make a gesture of some kind? Do they fumble in their pockets, or trip over a step, or turn away to avoid eye contact with other people. Do they seem to tense up? Do they lean forward, or maybe shrink away? Do they visibly relax? Are they restless? Do they cover confusion or evasiveness by speeding up what they were doing before the conversation started? Do they wait a bit too long before replying to a question? And if so, what are they doing while the other person waits for the answer? Show it happening so the reader can guess as to why.

    Use what you 'see' in these scenes to get more meaning injected into the scene. Using action beats can certainly break up long speeches, and avoid over-repeating said said said. But action beats should also add to the story by giving insight into purpose, and state of mind. Same as body language does in real life.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2020
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