Friday, February 8, 2008

Thoughts on Gestures

Writers: How often do your conversations between characters include gestures? In order to avoid “talking heads” as one of my critique partners likes to call it, you must offer a visual of characters’ movements.

I’ve been so consumed with mastering this writing technique, I’ve found myself play-acting while reading other books. If a character tilts her head or rolls her eyes, I mimic these gestures (in my head if I’m not alone!). Try darting your eyes back and forth; it’s a sure path to a headache.

In addition, arms and legs have to be where they’re supposed to be. If your character is holding a baby in one arm and flipping pancakes with the other, she can’t scratch her head. Plus, she’d have to stop and wash her hands and that would require juggling the baby and the spatula.

Recently, I read an interesting piece of advice: Less emphasis on gestures, more on thoughts.

However, be very sparse with this technique, writing too many thoughts of your characters (or extended segments of thoughts) significantly slows the story. The more effective, and subtle, method would be to use a combination: He sat across from her, willing himself not to touch the toe of his shoe to hers. Okay, not brilliant, but you get the point.

In my WIP, I switch POV between the main characters by using “scene” breaks. Last night a critique partner pointed out this technique is confusing, especially since I don't change scenes, merely POV. I felt the reader should know each character’s thoughts, especially since men and woman often view situations differently. I believe it reads better this way, but because it’s a WIP—and I value this critique partner’s advice—I’ll consider changing it.

Better advice: Stop worrying so much about the “rules” and tell a good story. Sounds simple, right?

1 comment:

pamela hammonds said...

Absolutely nothing simple about it. The best advice is to read others who write similar to your style and read, reread, watch and learn. The good ones make it look easy and I'm hoping that soon, it will come as natural to me as drawing breath. Right now, I'm gasping.