Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 6, 2010

Writers Use Body Language

Enrich your characters by adding body language. Just like in everyday life, we start forming impressions of people we read about from the moment we set eyes on them. Your characters posture, facial expression, eye contact, and gestures speak louder than the words they say.

Here are some things to think about when creating your character.

1. The Face

The face is the most expressive part of the body. Your characters facial expressions can convey feelings of anxiousness, make them appear aloof, disapproving, or disinterested. Their smile can  help you show your reader warmth, open, friendly, and confidence in your characters.

2. The Eyes

Our eyes give clues to our emotions. A direct stare implies intensity. It may also mean romantic interest, aggression, or fear. Making very little eye contact can either convey shyness or submissiveness. The middle ground of a gaze says that you are interested, secure, and at ease.

3. The Hands

Hands are also very expressive. Open gestures tend to make your characters appear open and honest. By pointing your finger, or moving your hands closer together, you can draw emphasis to what they are saying. Hand gestures can make a character seem enthusiastic and committed. Making too many gestures can your character appear nervous and uncontrolled. They can wring their hands or touch a sleeve, face, etc. These types of things can help make your character appear tense, nervous, or maybe dishonest.

4. Posture

How your character holds themselves, their posture, conveys a level of self-confidence. It can show attentiveness. Have them fall away from someone or lean back, you show a lack of interest and some level of reserve with your character. Have him or her hunch over and keep their head down will make them appear like their feeling low or maybe give the appearance of wanting to crawl away and hide.  They can puff their self up to show to show aggressive behaviour, like trying to defend their territory or show them being proud. A relaxed body posture will help you show a relaxed and confident character.

Posture gives signals about your characters interest in something, their openness, and attentiveness. It also gives clues as to their status within a group.

In summary, our characters face, eyes, hands (gestures), and posture express help us show what is going on inside. They give clues to our readers about what they are really feeling. Being aware of body language can allow a writer to send a message, otherwise not easily sent without actually coming out and telling the reader.

Illustrators you can apply the same things to your picture books.  Hope this gives you something else to tink about.

Talk soon,



  1. Great reminder Kathy. I learned to read body language by watching my children and husband. My husband always says, “I didn’t say anything.” But his body language spoke louder than words. I keep telling members of my two writers groups to read your blog, for they will learn and grow.


    • Mary,

      It’s funny how when you are married you can pick up on tiny things from your spouse, that no one else would see.

      Thanks for helping to spread the word about my blog. Glad you are out there.



  2. And then, should your characters be animals, be sure to also watch their ears and tails!


    • Jeanne,

      I think you should write up something about animal body language. Sounds like it would be very interesting.



  3. Kathy, I love stuff like this. Thanks!


  4. Donna,

    That is one of the things I am looking at with the revisions. Don’t want to weigh the story down, but sometime just a few words can tell a lot.

    Hope you are finding time to write.



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