Monday, July 25, 2011

Body Language

One of my weaknesses as a writer is an over-abundance of body language, particularly in dialogue. It's something I am very aware that I do, yet still, I tend to want to tell the reader every single thing my characters are doing as they speak. Stuff like this (as a really bad example):

Jane snorted. "I think you're stupid."
John frowned. "I think you're stupid too."
Jane folded her arms, her brows creased in anger. "You are such a stupid head."
"Oh yeah," John said, stepping closer, "well you're an even bigger stupid head."
"I can't believe I gave you my pudding cup!" Jane said, stomping her foot.
John laughed and winked his eye. "Well you can't have it back now," he said, sticking out his tongue.

Adding all that body language in with the dialogue really isn't necessary. It slows down the pace and the energy of the dialogue. Pick up a favorite book. Flip to a passage of dialogue. There is probably very minimal body language. Without all the body language, the reader is allowed to choreograph the scene for themselves, with the characters' words as their guide. There really is no need for all the extra stage directions :) Something that I tend to forget.

My first drafts are chock full of body language and it's something I spend a lot of time, and several passes, weeding out. Though...I think I'm getting a little better at reigning it in the first time around LOL

How do you feel about body language? Do you add a lot into your dialogue? When reading, do you like knowing every move the characters are making, or do you like supplying that on your own?


Indigo said...

I think there is a middle ground with body language. Sometimes it conveys emotion, others as you said it's a bit over the top.

I like the idea of letting the reader choreograph what they see in their minds eye from the dialogue. (Hugs)Indigo

Christine Fonseca said...

I agree with Indigo - there is a middle ground. And being an old dancer, I do choreograph it all in my mind, letting the body respond in an authentic way.

Michelle McLean said...

Oh I agree. There is a definite middle ground. I'm not advocating the complete absence of body language at all - I just go a little overboard lol

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There definitely needs to be a balance. Snort shows up in every one of my manuscripts, and my husband crosses each one out when he reads my works. Tells me I'm allowed one snort per book and that's it.

Mark Noce said...

Just my two cents, but I love body language in writing. It fills in the story for me and it "shows not tells," so whatever others say I think you're right on the money. I guess people just have diff tastes:)

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Dialogue is a tough one to perfect. Though you're already ahead of the game if you can identify your weaknesses in this area. Although I've grown a lot as a writer, there is still so much to learn. I'll never know it all. Just take each day as it comes and do the best we can. That's the best any of us can do.

Cassie's Neighbor said...

Oh, my dialogues consist mostly on body language, but I try not to overdo the whole thing much. There is really a need in putting body languages and specific thoughts on each (well, maybe not each) character's dialogue but using it too much would sorta make your readers... annoyed.
Balancing the descriptions properly, that wouldn't be much of a stone in the heart for the readers.

P.S. - But don't take my opinion into account. I mean, I'm still young and still trying to learn the basics. Help set me off to a much better start.

Shari said...

I do the same thing! I'm always having to clean up after myself. It's very messy.

Jen Daiker said...

I used to do the same thing you did where I had an overuse of it. However with the help of my crit buddies I've learned my big weaknesses and have since fixed that portion of the problem.

That doesn't mean all my problems go away. Oh if only writing were easier... I know, I know, then everyone would do it.