11 ways to talk about body language

Photo of a sharpened pencil, next to pencil shavings and small, gray pencil sharpener

Body language is subconscious, so you can’t always tell exactly what’s happening in someone else’s mind. However, understanding body language can help you to interpret their thoughts and feelings. It can give you more insight into how to communicate effectively.

Body language can be highly revealing, and it can also be surprisingly easy to pick up—often without even realizing it.

For example, the “head tilt” is often used in emotional displays.

When someone is nervous, they may tilt their heads upward, which may signal to the other person that they are uneasy or unsure.

The “head tilt” is also used sometimes in playful interactions, and it’s especially common when one person is talking to another.

When someone is teasing or joking around, they may tilt their heads to the side.

When you’re looking at your manuscript, and something is missing, consider adding details about your character’s body language.

Photo by Shamin Haky on Unsplash

In the photo above, we see two figures.

One appears to be a woman on the left and a man on the right.

The photo is cropped, so you can’t confirm the genders, but that’s my first impression.

Why is the presumed woman kicking her leg out?

Is there a reason?

Explain it!

Apply that thought process to your work-in-progress.

What about the man in the orange-red shoes?

His feet are planted firmly on the ground.


Talk about it on the page!

How can you show emotion through body language?

Showing emotion through movement can be done in the following 11 ways:

  1. Open or closed body posture
  2. Shoulder position
  3. Stance and bearing
  4. Shielding their body
  5. Personal space preferences
  6. Physical movements
  7. Body tension
  8. Self-soothing gestures
  9. Fiddling with clothing, jewelry, or other objects
  10. Position of their feet
  11. The angle of the body

Body language doesn’t just affect how people see your characters in their minds; it also affects how it makes them feel.

How your characters move, their posture, their facial expressions, how they hold their body… all affect how readers perceive your work.

It’s subtle but can add so much to what you’re trying to accomplish.

It’s often tricky, but learning how to read others’ body language to translate it to the page is essential.

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