According to experts, our body language and tone of voice convey a lot more to others than the words we speak. Some say up to 70% of communication is non-verbal. What we say isn’t nearly as important as how we say it.
Non-verbal communication is just as powerful in fiction. As writers, we need to consciously and carefully pair action with dialogue to reveal character and deliver our intended emotional punch. It’s all part of making every word count.
When I look back at my first writing efforts, the movements of my characters read like stage directions. He crossed the room, he ran his fingers through his hair, he picked up a glass. All boring and cliché bits of business there to identify who was speaking and little else.
More experienced writers know how to put body language to work for them. They know how action and other nonverbal cues can change the tone of a scene, add emotion, illuminate character or add tension.
Author Hallie Ephron has some examples and tips on adding emotion through body language here.
And, today, I stumbled across some great examples of how body language is commonly interpreted over on the blog of artist Ron Huxley—a fount of inspiration and creative distraction.
I started using the power of body language more consciously in my own writing after taking psychologist and popular writing teacher Margie Lawson’s Empowering Characters’ Emotions course. Margie also offers a self-guided study packet on body language and dialogue cues.
Margie is a very engaging instructor, and I can recommend her courses to anyone looking to learn more about this topic. Classes also provide opportunities for peer feedback.
Photo Odin Fotografia