Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

Writing from the Gut–or, Why I Use Body Language

on March 23, 2012

For me, blogging is a lot more about feelings than facts–which is also the case when I write anything else. 

My emotions drive what I write and how I write, including my novel BIRD FACE. Unfortunately, feelings sometimes spill out so fast and raw that they don’t hit the paper (or blog site) in the most comprehensible way for the reader. Emotions are reactions and should have a logical flow to them, no matter how fast that flow is. When I fail in that regard, the term “non sequiteur” may come to mind. 

I don’t often notice this problem in the first draft. I see an action, reaction, or dialogue play out in my mind’s eye and take for granted that a reader will see it the same way I do. I may omit details the reader needs to identify with a character and feel the emotion that character feels–which is the only way I want the reader to feel. 

Ideally, a character’s emotions should be felt by each and every reader in the way the writer intends. But, because every reader’s emotional makeup is a bit different, a writer must include some sure-fire ways to control those emotions. 

Having characters use body language to express their emotions–the emotions I feel as I write their stories–leaves little doubt as to what those characters are feeling and the emotions I want readers to experience with them. When I try to express a single emotion, I remind myself to describe what the character’s face, hands, arms, shoulders, or stance look like as I picture her feeling what she feels. Who wouldn’t understand that a character with a  down-turned mouth and arms crossed over her chest is displeased? 

Characters’ body language also assists in achieving the correct sequence of emotions and actions in a scene. Facial expressions, arm and hand movements, sitting, standing, pacing, or crossing the legs occur naturally when someone is expressing their emotions. Describing body movements at the right moments clarifies those emotions for the reader. If a character such as Wendy has an angry outburst, then crosses her arms but smiles, will the reader think she suddenly became happy–or has a devilish plan? 

Body language helps emotional writing make more sense. An editor would help too. 

 

 

 

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