Writing Tip: Choose Your Body Language Carefully

Writers often insert body language or actions to break up paragraphs of dialogue or narrative. What theater people call business creates a beat and helps establish the rhythm of the scene.

But it should do more. Think beyond nodding, smiling, nose-scratching, and coffee sipping. Everyone does these things and inserting them tells the reader nothing of the character who performs the action. To remedy the situation, think of less common, more character-driven actions AND/OR embed the action in a series that makes it telling. For example, if someone absentmindedly scratches–head, elbow, neck, crotch–scratching his nose would fit, maybe adding something about digging for skin flakes and looking at the results. The point is to make it memorable. Go for it.


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