Tuesday, October 12, 2010
More than words can say
If you're a regular reader of this blog, and you aren't yet convinced that I was a weird kid, you must have been a weird kid, too -- weird, like me, in the nicest possible way.
We lived waaaay out in the sticks, and the library was too far for us. Ergo, I read a lot of books that probably I shouldn't have, including my mom's stash of Cosmopolitan. (Which is why I don't have Cosmo in my house. But really, they actually did have some pretty interesting serious articles beyond those bared-breasted cover girls.)
One book that I read, though, has served me well over the years. It was a book club edition that my mom didn't order but got anyway, because you know how those slips of "not this month, thank you" never get logged before the book-of-the-month gets mailed. It was The Body Language of Sex, Power & Aggression, by Julian Fast.
Writers, you need to read this. PEOPLE, you need to read this. It's a thin little book, and the format is all Q&A. Fast takes real-life types of questions and answers them with anecotal info or results of studies that he knows about.
What's that got to do with writing? If you want to show instead of tell, everything. Instead of just appending "nervously" to "he said," how can you show a character is nervous? Fast points out in one question's answer that the hands often give away nervousness and anxiety.
Same thing with showing the developing romance between characters. How can we get away from all those meaningful (but repetitive) gazes? What are some flirtatious gestures that our heroine can make toward the guy who will wind up as her one true love?
Back when I read the book, of course, my biggest kick was gluing a teacher to one side of a classroom. Yep, if you lean forward in your desk while a teacher is on your side of a classroom, then lean back when she wanders toward the other side, you will soon have her glued to your side of the line. And yes, I did it. But hey, I don't fall for it whenever I'm teaching, so I guess I learned from my devilment!
I'm not sure if the book is even in print, and certainly there are more recent books on body language, but don't forget this tool in your writing. Read up on body language. It helps introverts like so many of us writers read the human population better, AND it helps us communicate more vividly. That's a win-win in my book.