Friday, December 4, 2015

What People Do When Talking

As writers, we're always 'posing' our characters, having them do things while speaking.  Face it.  NO one just talks and doesn't do something else.  Don't believe me?  Go to a coffee shop and watch people in conversation.  They're doing something else while talking, even if it's just in their animated expression.

So what do we do during dialogue?  Let's assume they're in that coffee shop, and 'just talking.'

Here are 25 ideas...some of them overused, but still effective:


  1. Nod or shake head
  2. Talk with hands
  3. Wipe table
  4. Pointing
  5. Writing
  6. Reading and ignoring
  7. Checking phone
  8. Playing game
  9. Signaling for barista or waitress
  10. Checking out people in restaurant
  11. Moving in chair
  12. Folding or steepling hands
  13. Crossing arms
  14. Setting jaw and/or lowering eyebrows in anger
  15. Sagging shoulders as if fearful or inferior
  16. Sitting on hands
  17. Holding hands with someone
  18. Kissing someone
  19. Putting arm around someone
  20. Sipping drink
  21. Blowing top of drink to cool it down
  22. Eating something
  23. Waving at someone
  24. Laughing or crying--emotion on face
  25. Lighting a cigarette

And that's just while someone's having a conversation at a coffee shop.  Think what they could be doing if they were working on a farm, for example?

So the next time you fall back to 'he nodded' for your action beat, think about what else you could use on this list.  And yes, 'nodding' does work, but sometimes, it can be overused.

Have a great week!
Markee


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