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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

Body Speak is Louder than Words

When you speak to someone, do you stand directly in front of them and talk in a monotone voice? Do you keep your hands by your side and stand completely still? Of course you don’t. You might use your hands to point or to describe something. Sometimes, a nod or shake of the head is used, or a raised or lowered brow. You might even squint as you look them directly in the eye. It is a well-known fact that we communicate more with our bodies than our mouths. If you look around, you can find workshops and books about reading body language. Conveying our message takes more than mere words, yet a lot of authors never use this very powerful visual dialogue in their stories. Why? One reason is the Deep Point of View movement. Someone said dialogue needs no tags or distractions to pull your reader in. Wrong! You can pull your reader more deeply into the story if he can see the other speaker’s visual dialogue and know what the main character is saying without words, in return. And there’s more. Characters don’t just use their bodies to speak, and they don’t stop moving, either. Allow them to use their settings. Doing this gives you the ability to show the scene around them without stopping the action to describe it. Are they in the living room? A canyon? A tree? Like real humans, your characters can rearrange items on a kitchen table, turn slowly around as they are thinking, slam a door, break something, pull out a chair and slump into it, flop down on the sofa, or take a drink. There is a time when dialogue with no distraction is needed. Maybe two people are whispering to avoid detection. Because their dialogue is short and quiet, the author tells us where they met up, lets them share the few words needed, then has them part ways again. Any mentioned movement would create unwanted “sound.” Or maybe a conversation has become extremely loud and the characters are angry. Only one or two lines of dialogue will be spit out as loud and fast as possible for each character. In a time like that, unless it is absolutely necessary, nothing more than verbal dialogue should be used. Anything else might calm the mood and slow the action needed for them to angrily say their part and move on. After they are done, someone might slam the door or throw some keys, but during that very short dialogue exchange, nothing should interfere. So, when you’re finished writing your story, go back and look at your dialogue. Help your characters convey their messages with body movements and actions in their scenery, so the reader actually feels like he is experiencing a real conversation. The more you do this, the more you will start to see the full scene and be able to share it with your readers. Thank you for reading my little snippet on body talk. Having made my point, I’ll cross my arms and walk away, now.

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1 Comment

Jun 29, 2018

So true. Actions speak louder than words. But I'm not sure I like the tone of your crossed arms. ( I say with a hint of a smile and eyebrows lifted.)

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