Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Body Speak

OK, the green in this intro is about as far into St. Patrick's Day as it's going to get here. If you're celebrating, enjoy! Today's guest is author Lise Fuller. There's more to language than words. See what she has to say about Body Language.

Why to Include Body Language in Your Writing

When most people hear the term “body language” they think of the visual – movements that some other person makes while speaking. However, there is so much more. And some, but not all, of it is hardwired in our brains. Still, face-to-face communication involves all the senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, taste. More than that, it involves culture, sex, and varies in meaning across generations.
But first and foremost, it involves you. How you perceive what is going on. Communications is a two-way street—even if a person isn’t speaking. It involves sending and receiving, and how the messages are interpreted between the parties involved. This is important. The ‘what’ of how we perceive speaks to us. According to some studies, the body itself actually says between 50% - 90% of all face-to-face communication. And if you need proof, think about this. Everyone knows you shouldn’t be texting or calling on your cellphone while driving because it’s dangerous. Why? If you have a passenger in your car, you talk to them? You glance at them, banter with them, sometimes even hold their hand or more if they’re a significant other.

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But the difference is this: When another person is in the car, he or she sends signals to you other than in the words of what they say, and your body, whether you consciously recognize it or not, picks up these cues. If something is happening, you catch the clues of the body from another pair of eyes, and you react to it, making the driving safer. The gasps, the laughter, the sight of someone gripping the handle that hangs from the top (yes, the one you put your dry cleaning on). You read these, at least some part of your mind does. You don’t have this from a cellphone. The other person can’t see where you are or where you’re going. There are no non-verbals or paralanguage (voice modulation, etc.) from them that speak to you. That’s what makes the conversations on a technology dangerous.

Now, again, the “speaking” isn’t just the visual. It’s all the senses. Think of a phone conversation. You can’t see the person, but often you can hear the emotion in their tone. Their voice cracks or hitches if they’ve been crying, or they emphasize words in a particular way that lets you know they’re upset or happy. Hey, we all were children at one point. Remember your mother yelling at you? I wouldn’t see her, but if she yelled “Lise!”, man, I knew I was going to get it.

Here’s some more: Everyone’s heard of pheromones and their role in sex, but did you know that scientists have now documented some herd responses in humans, such as really smelling fear, to the extent that others respond to this? And what about handshakes? Is the person’s grip hard? Firm? Weak? Everyone judges others. It’s a survival instinct. So when someone shakes your hand, what does that tell you? What does that mean between cultures? In the USA a firm handshake is the best. It says you’re confident yet not so controlling, but that isn’t true across the globe. Then there’s taste. Did you know that women will often decide a guy isn’t right for them after they’ve kissed them? Why? Because there’s something in the way the guy tastes.
These are just examples. And most of you, whether you recognize it or not, are actually pretty good at reading the signals. So, why should you put them in your writing?

Several reasons (and I’m sure you can think of more):
1. It makes the story more tactile, more real
2. It can be used to put the reader in the characters head and emotions
3. Use it to move the story forward
4. Use it to enrich the character
5. Use as a character tag

And you want to make sure you use power words & phrases. Instead of “anger welled within him”, you could say, “he beat the brick wall until his hands bled.” That’s pretty descriptive.

That’s it for now. Thanks for following with me.

Note: If you would like to know more on using body language in your writing, check out the Danger Zone authors blog Wednesday, March 18th.

Lise Fuller is the multi-published author of action adventure romantic suspense. Her titles include On Danger's Edge, Intimate Deceptions, and Cutting Loose. Visit her at her website, www.lisefuller.com


Jess said...

Very informative! I definitely prefer reading dialogues that put something more into the banter. Those little descriptives that get me in touch and more involved with the characters. Otherwise, I just lose interest...sort of like zoning out when that boring, monotone teacher lectured in school...

liana laverentz said...

Using body language is one of my favorite ways to convey a character's emotions. Great article!

Joanna Waugh said...

Great article, Lisa! A lot of misunderstanding can occur when we can't read another person's body language. This is particularly true of sightless people. Just such misunderstanding lies at the heart of my book, BLIND FORTUNE.
I've put together a list of body language cues to emotion on my website at http://www.joannawaugh.com/Craft.php

Jean Hart Stewart said...

good to have it reaffirmed how essential body lanuage is.. Jean

Lise Fuller said...

Thanks, everyone. Glad you enjoyed the article. I'll go into some more detail in tomorrow's blog at www.dangerzoneauthors.com.

Please stop by there as well.

And Terry, thanks for having me!

~ Lise Fuller

How much danger would you face for the perfect romance?

Lise Fuller, www.lisefuller.com, www.myspace.com/lisefuller

Donnell said...

Lise, your article's good, but these folks should see you give this talk in person. You make it make sense. Thanks, dahling!

Debbie Kaufman said...

Thanks for a very informative post. I find myself addicted to the new TV show, LIE TO ME because I learn so much about body language

Tom Fuller said...

I love watching people's body language to figure out what they really mean. it's amazing how much more we can learn about a person's intentions, feelings, and real purposes by simply observing how they carry themselves, move, and even stand... On another note i'm even more fun of just watching Lise's body ;)

Mary Marvella said...

Excellent, Lisa. sometimes we need reminders and this was a good one. Mary would use body language but she's using both hands to type. We'll she did smile.

Lise Fuller said...

LOL! Thanks, Donnell! I was a fun presentation.

~ Lise

How much danger would you face for the perfect romance?

Lise Fuller, www.lisefuller.com, www.myspace.com/lisefuller

Lise Fuller said...

Hey, Debbie! Lie To Me is a great show, isn't it? I don't get to watch much but this is one I really like.

~ Lise

How much danger would you face for the perfect romance?

Lise Fuller, www.lisefuller.com, www.myspace.com/lisefuller

Lise Fuller said...

LOL! Thanks Mary. U understand.

And Tom, I love you too. Thanks, hon.

~ Lise

How much danger would you face for the perfect romance?

Lise Fuller, www.lisefuller.com, www.myspace.com/lisefuller

Deb Maher said...

Thanks for a great post! The hand shake example reminded me of a first meeting years ago, with a new top exec. He offered a wimpy overhand "handshake" - cold, damp little hands. He turned out to be just the reptile his introductory handshake predicted.

Lack of a handshake, when one is called for, can also be revealing.

I'd love to hear the talk in person. Any chance you're giving it at a conference?