Updated: Oct 11, 2019
Integrating body language into your writing is probably one of the most important things you can do to enhance the readability of your book. Without even realizing it, readers look for body language to tell them exactly how your characters are reacting to a certain event or situation, and it's up to you to portray your characters' actions in a way that is truly genuine and believable. If you ever find yourself struggling to illustrate your characters' habits, check out the tips below for some help!
1. Add complexity to dialogue.
A great way to integrate more body language into your writing is to sneak it into your pieces of dialogue. Not only will this clue your reader in on HOW your character said something, but it will also help them visualize what your characters are doing while they're speaking–after all, no one stands perfectly still when they talk in real life. Most people use their hands or gesture toward something they're referring to. Others fidget with their jewelry or play with their hair; the list goes on. Make sure your dialogue comes across as natural interactions between people; you want to portray real-life scenarios through your words, so don't forget to include those details!
2. Illustrate your characters' emotions.
It's one thing to tell your readers that your character feels a certain way, and it's another thing to show them. The best way to do this is to illustrate your characters' emotions and bring forth those subtle details in body language that help clue you in on how someone feels in real life. If your character is anxious, are they pacing the floor, fiddling with papers, or nervously picking at their skin? If they are angry, are their eyebrows furrowed or nostrils flared? Is their gaze deadly, or is their jaw clenched?
There are so many subtle ways in which people express their emotions through body language alone. It's important to include these in an effort to engage your readers and create a more realistic story.
3. Create more dynamic scenes.
By showcasing your characters' actions and body language in detail throughout your book, you are unknowingly creating more dynamic scenes of action. Whether your book is an action novel, romance, or fantasy, it's vital that you include believable actions on behalf of your characters. Your reader needs to know what your characters are doing and how. Without that "how", there will be something missing—another place for your reader to fill in the blanks themselves. As a writer, it is up to you to spell out exactly what is happening in your story and make it as vivid and realistic as possible, so your reader can close your book feeling satisfied.
So, get in depth about how your characters complete certain actions. If there is a fight scene in your book, for example, how are the characters fighting? Is it fast-paced or slow and deliberate? Are they struggling to catch their breath, or are they super athletic and unfazed? Are their moves swift and fluid, or does it seem like neither one of them has ever fought before? If there's a romantic scene in your book, how do your characters act and react toward one another? Do they hardly meet each other's gaze? Are they rocking back and forth with nervousness? Are they looking in each other's eyes with steamy anticipation? MAKE YOUR READER FEEL IMMERSED IN YOUR WORK!
I found a couple cheat sheets on writing with body language and have added them below. They should help you decipher which emotion you want to portray and how to effectively do so. And, of course, if you want to chat about any other ways you can add more believable body language in your writing, feel free to reach out!
Leave a comment down below of a book/scene you think utilizes body language very well; I'd love to hear your thoughts. And as always, make sure you subscribe, so you never miss any of my tips, tricks, or advice!