April 3, 2007
I’m working with a friend on injecting our writing with clarity and energy that'll make editors take quick notice—the kind of quick that makes their fingers do the talking within minutes of receiving the manuscript. A girl can dream, right?
My friend attended a workshop where The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs and Body Language Cues, by David B. Givens, was introduced as a tool to infuse one’s writing with action and sizzle.
I know you’re familiar with nonverbal language—a writer's lifeblood. But this online dictionary is pretty in-depth and very easy to use. It might help you add another layer to a character's life or simply inspire you to change things up a bit.
The dictionary entries vary in length, but most contain the usage of a movement, physiological underpinnings, evolutionary details of the gesture, sometimes the psychological root, anthropological and cultural tidbits, and examples of how a cue may play out in modern life. This information can be helpful for a writer deciding how and when to use a particular action to communicate a particular thought, feeling, or desire.
One entry I explored was the Body Wall entry. In terms of nonverbal definitions, the Body Wall is “1…an expressive unit consisting of the head and trunk (without the face, shoulders, arms, hands, legs, or feet).”
Did you know, “As expressive cues, movements of the body wall are more fundamental as mood signs than are hand, arm, and leg motions?”
That jolted me. It brought to mind the way I convey nervousness or worry. I often focus on hand gestures (especially first draft)—maybe the fondling of a necklace, or running a hand through hair to convey a character’s uncertainty or concern. I don’t nearly as often isolate the head, neck, and trunk (minus the face, arms, and hands) to communicate an inner thought—one that the character might prefer to keep to herself.
I’ve only begun to explore this tool and already I’m finding ways to weave new gestures, cues and movements into my characters’ lives.
One thing’s for sure. I need to boot the fondling of pearls from my manuscripts. How about you? What gesture, cue or movement do you find creeping into every draft of your writing?