Prompts

Physical gestures reveal emotions . . . Prompt #211

Physical gestures do more than enhance dialogue . . .

Writing dialogue usually includes physical gestures— those things we do when we talk.

You don’t have to be exceptionally creative to write realistic action while your characters are dialoguing. Just write whatever it is they are doing:  fingers drumming, shoulders twitching, cell phone glancing, eyes wandering, forehead scratching. So much nonverbal communication going on. Just don’t be boring about it . . . no fingers twirling hair, no lip biting. Like clichés, these are over-used physical gestures.

Here’s what Steven James says in the January 2016 issue of the Writer’s Digest magazine, “If you find your character brushing his nose or repositioning his chair or crossing legs and so forth for no other reason than to provide a respite from the dialogue, recast the scene.

Just as dialogue should reveal the intention of the characters so should the actions that they take while they’re speaking. When we read that a character folded his arms, we’ll naturally wonder why he’s doing that. What is it meant to convey about his attitude or emotional response to what’s happening? Don’t confuse your readers by inserting needless movement. Rather, include action only as long as it adds to the scene or enriches it. If the action doesn’t convey anything essential, drop it.”

Actions and non-verbal communication:

Fingers drumming, arms crossed: Bored, really doesn’t want to listen, disagrees with what is being said. Could be a superior attitude, could be a defensive mechanism.

Twitching, sighing, avoiding eye contact, wandering eyes: Nervous, anxious, being secretive, feeling overwhelmed.

Here’s your mission, if you decide to accept it: Observe actions at coffee shops, in stores, shopping malls, at parties, wherever people gather. Make a list of what people do while engaged in conversation. Pull out your list next time you are writing dialogue.

Writing Prompt: Make a list of things people do while conversing.

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