Body Language: What Your Characters Aren’t Saying

From Little, Brown Books avail. Jan. 2013
(This is not a book review of Jenn Rush’s ALTERED [except I will say that it’s good and I really, really enjoyed it].  This is me recognizing and appreciating something an author succeeds at.)   

Jenn does something incredible in this book that many people might ignore/overlook.  She defines her characters with their body language, which is pretty awesome considering her cast consists of four teenage boys and one girl. The characters don’t just shrug and wink and raise their eyebrows.  Well…they do, but each character has their own physical and personality quirks that makes them recognizable without a tag. 

For instance, there’s a scene where the boys are expecting to be attacked and you get a sense of where each one ranks in the group and how they fight simply by the description of how they stand:

“Sam shook his head again, but Connor missed it.  Cas stood a the front of his room, arms crossed over his chest.  Nick rolled his head back and forth, the bones in his neck cracking.  Trev curled his hands into loose fists.”*

Because you haven’t had the pleasure of reading ALTERED yet, you might not catch that Sam is the leader, that Cas is the super strong (albeit slightly goofy) one, that Nick is the loose cannon/brawler, and that Trev is the carefully-controlled, wise one.  But it’s there — that thing that makes each character an individual — in that scene and all of the others.

Jenn’s writing got me thinking about body language, and the ways a writer can use it to the build characters. I found a few good lists of gestures that might be helpful, but I’d like to compile my own, semi-comprehensive list that’s sort of a one-stop shop.  Wanna help?

If you have a gesture or body language description to add to the list, please put it in the comments.  I’ll post the compilation of all your suggestions next week. 

This the format I’m going to use:

Arms folded across chest (male)
Hands on hips (female)
Jaw tight, clenched
Hands in fists

Legs crossed, kicking foot (female)
Head rested on hand

Other categories will include (but feel free to add more!):  Aggressive, Concerned, Confident, Defensive, Depressed, Doubtful, Excited, Evaluating, Happy, Indecisive, Insecure, Interested, Nervous, Pained, Relaxed, Sad, Scared, Shocked.

Here are links to other gesture-related articles you may find helpful:

Examples of Body Language
25 Examples of Body Language
Body Language
Examples of Body Language

Thanks!  And I look forward to hearing your body language descriptions!

*This quote is taken from the ARC version of the novel and may be different in the final version.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *