Today, in improv practice we did an exercise utilizing silence. This made me think about how much can be conveyed just with body language and facial expressions. I think that, a lot of the time, writers are more focused on what their characters are saying than doing. The exception seems to be when the character has a nervous tick that come up a lot, like cracking their knuckles or something. While dialogue is extremely important to any manuscript (at least one with characters and not a textbook manuscript or something) what the characters are doing is equally important. For example, in an interview you could say all the same things as another candidate, but how you act- confident, nervous, shy, cocky, etc. - changes the whole thing.
So, in order to facilitate more body language, I’ve compiled some body language words, phrases, and things people do for your usage.
raise your eyebrow
scrunch your nose
bite your tongue
play with your tongue (kind of like putting it your cheek, you know?)
roll your eyes
cross your arms
shrug your shoulders
bounce your foot
bounce your leg
play with your fingers/ fingernails
flare your nostrils
open your eyes really wide
pouting/ extended low lip
stick your tongue out
There’s obviously a ton more, but I ran out of ideas for now.
One thing I do- when I’m writing alone- is I act out the scene with myself. (This is why I cannot write in public.) That gives me a much better sense of things. It makes me think about things like, “what do I do with my hands right now?” “If I’m angry, what do my eyes look like?” etc. It really helps.
(The difference between including facial expressions, and forgetting they exist. Picture’s from here.)
So yeah. Body language. Not just for real life.