Body Language ‘Cheat Sheet’

Writers Write have put together some advice and a great table of body language/physical cues you can use to reveal emotion.

For instance, if you were attempting to show awe you might consider showing your character:

slack-jawed, unable to move, stare etc

Of course, try not to overuse such cues, otherwise your characters will start looking like flailing cartoons.

Most importantly, context will do most of the work. For example, a shrug might suggest: confusion, disinterest or disregard, the same way a frown might show a variety of emotions.

What will really sell a scene to the reader is the whole picture.



How much can your verbs bench press?

You’ve heard the advice – make your verbs stronger.

Well, it is good advice. Unless you’re purposefully trying to make a character seem passive or downtrodden perhaps, you should aim for strong verbs, or certainly for variety in your verbs. Sometimes the simpler word will do – but not always.

Therese Stenzel has a useful list here. For example, take ‘sat.’ Sat could be switched for some of the words below, depending on the context. What kind of character is sitting? Where are they sitting?

Sat: eased into, settled, took, perch, plop down, relaxed into

For instance, an injured or elderly character might ‘ease into’ an armchair. By using ‘ease’ instead of sat, you’ve shown the reader something about that character. Your verb is working harder for you, its pulling its weight.

Now, some of the words on the list we’ve linked to might not always need changing. Further to this, ‘looked’ is an interesting one. Looked can impact on point of view, and act as a ‘filtering’ word. A  filtering word is something which may distance the reader from your character or action, which is not desirable.

But more on that topic next time!