Let Me Hear Your Body Talk
Body language can be an important way to make your writing become more three-dimensional, so readers can feel and see and imagine what your characters are saying and doing. Movements and facial expressions can communicate many things to the reader – thoughts, emotions, ideas. The movements can include props or other people, each one carefully placed to show something about the characters and the scene.
There is also psychology to body language. One of the most commonly recognized posture symbols is the crossed arms over the chest, which can signal many things: A person erecting a barrier between themselves and others; a resistance or defensiveness to what someone else is saying; even just that the person’s arms are cold (which can be further clarified by rubbing of the arms as they are crossed).
Every movement your characters make can be significant of something. For example, if the hero is standing with arms crossed because someone is telling him something he is resisting, the other character can offer him a drink or a snack or even a handshake, removing the hero’s defensiveness by causing him to release his arms. Such simple things can make a scene deeper and more touching.
Standing too close or face to face with another person can be considered confrontational or an invasion of the other person’s “bubble.” People who are just “chatting” will stand farther apart, often positioned side by side or across a table. This is often more true of men than women; however, other clues can be used to show to show if the characters are being confrontational or being careful not to be confrontational.
Eyes can be part of the body language description used. Keeping eye contact is considered truthful, trustworthy and honest; however, if the person keeping eye contact is moving around, fidgeting, they may not be giving their full attention to what is being discussed. Averted eyes can show anxiety disorder, disbelief, shame and other emotions. Unfocused gaze, tilting of the head or both can indicate boredom or wandering attention.
There are a lot of books and articles about body language to be found in libraries and bookstores. I also discovered a veritable treasure trove of Internet information on body language to help writers use the right movements, facial expressions and props to make your writing come alive (see below).