Cheat Sheets For Writing Body Language

Cheat Sheets For Writing Body Language


Because Writers Write is your one-stop writing resource, we’ve put together these cheat sheets to help you with your body language descriptions.

What Is Body Language?

People react to situations with micro-expressions, hand gestures, and posture. Most of us are not even aware of them. However, what we do with our body language has a huge impact on other people and how they interpret and perceive us.

‘Even when they don’t express their thoughts verbally, most people constantly throw off clues to what they’re thinking and feeling. Non-verbal messages communicated through the sender’s body movements, facial expressions, vocal tone and volume, and other clues are collectively known as body language.’ (Psychology Today)

Body language happens when we are doing something. We could be sitting, standing, or walking. We could be talking or thinking. Body language is often an involuntary reaction to something perceived by one of the five senses.

How To Use It In Writing

Using body language is one of the best ways to show and not tell when we write.

This is why we are always told to use body language in our writing. Sometimes, it’s easier said than written. So, I created these cheat sheets to help you show a character’s state of mind through his or her body language.

When you are completing your character biographies, be sure to include how your main characters move and talk. This is especially important for your protagonist, antagonist, confidant, and love interest. They are the characters that hold the story together and they should be as well-rounded and believable as possible.

The Top Five Tips For Using Body Language

  1. Use body language to add depth to dialogue.
  2. Use it because more than 50% of human communication is non-verbal.
  3. Use it to show how your character’s emotions affect his or her actions.
  4. Use it to help you show rather than tell your reader everything.
  5. Use it in moderation. If overused, it can slow your story down.

Cheat Sheets For Writing Body Language

Use this list to help you with your body language descriptions. It will help you to translate emotions and thoughts into written body language.

Obviously, a character may exhibit a number of these behaviours. For example, he or she may be shocked and angry, or shocked and happy.

Use these combinations as needed.

Cheat Sheets For Body Language
Cheat Sheets For Body Language

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course.

by Amanda Patterson
© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this, read:

  1. The 17 Most Popular Genres In Fiction – And Why They Matter
  2. How To Write A One-Page Synopsis
  3. 123 Ideas For Character Flaws – A Writer’s Resource
  4. The 7 Critical Elements Of A Great Book
  5. All About Parts Of Speech
  6. Punctuation For Beginners
  7. 5 Incredibly Simple Ways to Help Writers Show and Not Tell
  8. 5  Instances When You Need To Tell (And Not Show)
  9. The 4 Main Characters As Literary Devices
  10. 106 Ways To Describe Sounds

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This article has 53 comments

  1. Basil Sands

    Wow….that’s probably one of the most useful lists I’ve ever seen…thanks!

  2. Sanajaya

    Very useful…simply superb. Will be handy for me when I sit down to write next time.

  3. Angie

    A mullion trillion thanks for this incredibly useful page of “show” instead of telling. Thank you xx

  4. Rach

    I would have liked to pin this on pint rest 🙁

  5. R.w.Foster

    This kind of reminds me of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

  6. The Tale Monger

    This is the best of the “show” lists I have either made or found. Superb.

  7. Michelle

    Love, love, love these! Thanks for compiling them. I’m going to share them and put them in a file to resource.
    Michelle
    Random Writing Rants

  8. Manny

    This is very useful.

  9. Keyur Panchal

    Its really helpful….

  10. pio dal cin

    great post really!!! thanks for sharing

  11. Kimberley Jackson

    This is one of the most helpful writer’s guide posts I have ever seen. It is so hard not to write “He looked at her in awe”, but think about the specific body language in that situation. It also helps think about the traits a character can have… Every person is different so one can even put individuality into the writing by giving certain characters characteristic emotional expressions.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!!

  12. Writers Write

    Thank you, Kimberley.

  13. Melissa Parker

    I know I’ll be referring back to this list often. Thank you so much for sharing.

  14. Writers Write

    Thank you, Melissa.

  15. v.p.s.parimala rao

    Perhaps this is the best way to hone up the writing skills of one’s own and I should be very thankful to you for helping the writers through this .

  16. Chloe Thurlow

    This is dangerous if astute advice. Anything that aids progress writing is useful, but anything that aids progress stops you thinking – and it is only by thinking that he universe opens a portal and pours out something original.

  17. lillian Hollaway

    Great information not only for writing but observation of these behaviors in action. As a school counselor I am interested in non-verbal cues from others.

  18. saqib

    Great work! high degree of observation!
    really impressed.

  19. Melody

    This is great. There is one word that comes up SO OFTEN that it is distracting to me as a reader and that is “gaze.” People are gazing at things, at each other, they’re gazing all over the place. One time I counted the number of times “gaze” was used in a book and found an instance of 5 times in 4 consecutive pages. But another book used “gaze” 5 times in 4 consecutive PARAGRAPHS. Why the editors don’t catch this is beyond me. My favorite “gaze” quote from a book is, “Her brown gaze settled upon the distant mountains.” That didn’t make me think of her brown eyes. My first thought was that she was seeing smog! Is it strange to say a color with “gaze”? I’ve also seen something like, “His blue gaze swung up.” (the man was driving at the time) It sounds strange to me, but maybe that’s just me. The book with the distant mountains sentence used “gaze” heavily from the second page all the way to the second to the last paragraph! It was painful to read. I got rid of the book.

  20. Rowan Worth

    Very helpful to have this all in one place! Thanks!!!

  21. Jaclyn

    Thank you! This is great! 🙂

  22. Cornelia Lorenzo

    Thank you for this post. It’s very helpful.

  23. Ayan Mukherjee

    This is a good list. But I believe we can always be a little more creative in mixing them up to denote various degrees and subtleties in an emotion.

  24. Writers Write

    Yes, Ayan. As it says in the post: ‘Obviously, a character may exhibit a number of these behaviours. For example, he may be shocked and angry, or shocked and happy. Use these combinations as needed.’

  25. Kyrie Chasen

    These cheat sheets are worth their weight in gold! Thank you for taking the time to put them together.

  26. Susan Elliott

    AWESOME! I was just speaking with a friend who mentioned I needed to do this a little more. Thank you so much.

  27. Lulu Salavegsen

    such an amazingly helpful post! Thank you!

  28. Writers Write

    Thank you. We’re glad you find this useful.

  29. Jeanne Voelker

    Melody,
    Would have ditched that book too. That’s just bad writing.

  30. Judith Shernock

    Please send me any further articles you put out. This one is very helpful. It makes us aware of the use of each movement as a symbol of inner thought.
    Thanks

  31. Judith Shernock

    Please send me any further articles you put out. This one is very helpful. It makes us aware of the use of each movement as a symbol of inner thought.
    Thanks

  32. Wendy Engelmann

    This is the most helpful article I have read about telling vs. Showing. Thank you.

  33. Writers Write

    Thank you, Wendy.

  34. Jason Chapman

    Thanks for this really usefull I find that I use the same emotions over and over.

  35. Vee

    Thank you! This is an excellent reference for a desirable result.

  36. Danita Cahill

    “Excellent list,” she said, rubbing her hands together and grinning. ; ) Thank you!

  37. Bela Lampert

    Thank you, Melissa! I love it!!

  38. Michelle Wallace

    Excellent!!

  39. Alexandra Wallner

    I read this very useful and generous article on stumbleupon.com Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me!

  40. Amanda Patterson

    Thank you for the positive feedback. I’m pleased that this helps.

  41. Jammee

    Thank you for this :))

  42. Becca

    Thanks for the helpful post! Great resource for the scripts I’m co-writing.

  43. J V Ramana Gupta

    Simply superb compilation ! No more adjectives.

  44. Writers Write

    Thank you! We’re glad that you find these lists helpful.

  45. Ulla Hakanson

    Very useful! Thank you so much!

  46. Tara

    What a succinct and useful list!

  47. Colin Smith

    “Unfortunately,” (pause, lips pursed indicating deliberation and thought) “these are almost” (stress on final word, downward tilt of the head with slight inclination to the left as the speaker maintains gaze on listener indicating mock-serious intent) “entirely” (extra stress on this word, head lifts and turns full-on indicating intent) “cliché” (jaw firms, slight downward shift of the brow, eyes narrow indicating mild annoyance.) “Sorry” (head lifts, jaw pushes out, eyebrows raised indicating belligerence and complete lack of genuine apology).

  48. N Murali

    quite informative, and precise. thanks.

  49. Sharique Anwar

    i’m highly grateful to you, thanks a lot n million, may god bless you a long and happy life

  50. DarkForestCrow

    This is so useful! Thank you, thank you very much!

  51. Norton

    OMG! I impressed to read it. Really, you are doing good job.

  52. Turkish Traslators Team

    Very informative thanks!

  53. darkocean

    I need something different for pleading. and it’s not on the list. Why is the emotion I want not almost never on the lists? xP (Arg)

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