3 Ways to Use Body Language to Show, Not Tell
Last week we discussed dialogue and this week’s topic is closely related. It’s body language. There are many different types of body language, but this week we’ll focus on three aspects that allow us to show, not tell your characters’ personalities and emotional states. Let’s get started.
Addressing first impressions and posture are one way of getting the reader to know your character by showcasing their personality. How your characters present themselves and how they carry themselves says a lot about your characters. Is she always dressed up to go out or does she live in sweatshirts? Does he lean back when he sits or does he slump forward? Does she stand tall with shoulders back when she’s with her friends but slouches and crosses her arms in front of her around strangers or her boss? These are just a few examples of ways body language adds to characterization. You can also use their appearance to add a quirk to their personality. Does James always wear blue? Does Katy have five different pairs of cat earrings she wears all the time? Appearance and posture show character personality more than simply telling can.
- What are your characters doing besides talking? Does he stand up and pace back and forth? Is she pulling on a loose string on her shirt? Is he drumming his fingers on his knee while he fidgets with his collar? These things show emotions much stronger than simply telling them and are important to use to add depth to your dialogue.
- Finally, automatic body responses help show instead of tell what the character is feeling and immerse your reader in the story. Automatic body responses include blushing, breaking out into a sweat, hair standing on end, getting goosebumps, heart pounding, mouth going dry, etc. These responses are reactions that every reader is familiar with and build emotional connections between the reader and the characters in your story since everyone can relate to them.
Those were three ways to use body language that follow the Show, Don’t Tell rule and add depth and layers to your dialogue. For more information on dialogue and body language read here and here. For more writing tips and inspiration, follow my blog and Twitter and find me on Facebook for weekly prompts and stories.
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