I am writing about using body language and facial expressions to help tell a story because it ties in with why I observe animals. I often describe characters in comparison to animals.
Body language plays a central role in my book. My main character comes from a family who has a gift for reading body language and facial expressions. His relatives use it to con people. My main characters uses it to protect his family.
In real life, con artists read body language to pick out marks. Since not all cons work on all people, it is essential for a con artist to judge if his lies are working. Body language and facial expressions of the mark clue in the con artist on how he is doing. In The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova, the author cites many studies about how we reveal our thoughts and moods through body language.
I have read books on body language to help me describe familiar emotions in new ways. The book may say that most people register surprise by lifting their eyebrows, widening their eyes, and opening their mouths slightly. When I write about a character being surprised, I don’t have to put down all three of those facial actions. I can select one, such as lifting the eyebrows, and try to describe it in a unique way. The reader will understand the emotion with one example of how the character looks. When another character registers surprise, I can describe a different facial action, like the open mouth. The reader will still understand that the character is surprised, but it will be a new description of the same feeling so the reader doesn’t get bored.
I also learned from my reading that when I like or am comfortable with a person I am talking to, I will automatically mimic his or her body language or facial expressions. Just think how awkward it is to smile at someone and that person doesn’t smile back. Mimicking others’ facial expression and body language is second nature to humans So when it doesn’t happen, it sends a clear signal. In writing a scene with a group of people, having one character standing out from the others because her body language doesn’t match theirs is a great way to highlight a feature of that character.