Reacting isn’t just for acting. Readers create bonds with your characters through body language. It sets up genuine, realistic stories.

Body language adds depth to your characters
Body language adds depth to your characters.
Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash

Body Language Is Simple, Yet Complex.

With a tightening of a fist or a raised eyebrow, your readers will draw conclusions about your characters. Show, don’t tell. Emotion is better portrayed through body language than dialogue.

Don’t say, “He’s upset,” when you can say, “He balled his fists with a tight-lipped frown.” It gets the message across much more clearly. Now, we can see he’s mad instead of trusting someone’s word.

Body language will let your characters communicate with your readers. It's a special bond.
Body language will let your characters communicate with your readers. It’s a special bond.
Photo by Neel on Unsplash

Why Do Reactions need Body Language?

Put yourself in the place of the reader. While you’re leading up to a big climax in your story, your readers are at home, anticipating how each character will react. Don’t let them down!

It’s important, as a writer, to include each character’s genuine reaction. That’s where body language comes in.

With a simple sneer or crinkle of the nose, you can portray a character’s emotion. It allows your readers to become more involved in your story, deciding what the body language meant.

Body Language Cheat Sheet

AngerClenches/FistsStraightens/ Puffs out ChestTight-lippedNarrows
SadnessTucks in pocketsSlouchesTheir Smile FadesGlossy with Tears
HappyClaps them togetherRelaxesGrins/ BeamsLit up
FearRubs them togetherTenses UpGrits their TeethWidens

Create Bonds Through Body Language

Body language doesn’t have to be an individual experience. Use the relationships you have written.

Harry jumps back, pulling Emma with him. She instinctively tightens her grip on his hand.

Write whatever seems natural for your characters. Don’t add crazy body language because I told you to. Add it because it enhances your story.

Whether it’s an individual quirk or body language an entire group has adapted, it needs to work for your story. Make the reactions real for your readers.

Characters show emotion and personality through body language.
Characters show emotion and personality through body language.
Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

Write Some Reactions. Body Language Is Key.

Every character reacts differently. Make up a few common moves for your character. It could be nervously rubbing their hands together or crossing and uncrossing their legs. Anything works. Body language is a valuable tool in your writer’s toolbox.

Take some tips from everyday life. How do people react to situations around you? Scare your sibling or significant other and see how they react. Tell them it’s research (that usually works).

Never neglect how important a character’s reaction is in your story. There’s at least one reader out there that’s looking forward to their favorite character’s reaction. Body language is the best way to show it. It becomes the building blocks for their personality. Now, go out and write some reactions.