Along with researching body language in books, people watching is another way to learn about it and gain inspiration for your characters.
A few rules about people watching:
- Put down your phone. (Not now. Wait until you are done reading my blog.)
- Don’t stare.
- Don’t spy.
If at any time, I think my observations are making someone uncomfortable, I will turn my attention elsewhere. The same goes if I suddenly feel like I’ve tuned into something private. Even if I’m stuck in the same room with a person, like a waiting room, I can turn to my writing journal. Or you can pick up your phone. I try to have my journal with me at all times because I like to write whenever I can. But it can also be a great protection against awkwardness. That’s why I’m not an avid people watcher. I like to go unnoticed and try to treat others as I would like to be treated.
I can also learn about body language from myself, even though this is difficult because you have to develop an objective awareness about yourself. Don’t try to watch yourself in a mirror because you are guaranteed to act unnaturally. Ask family and friends if they notice any particular quirks. One of my sisters told me years ago that when I am mad, I show my teeth. That’s a great way to describe a character’s anger, and I use it.
Working with kids has made me much more aware of my body language. Adult size can be intimidating to kids, so I can smile or get down on their level to mitigate that fear. Also, if I’m stressed, my body language can transmit that to kids without me saying a word and may stress them too. So I become aware of how I act when I’m stressed and work to relax.
There are professionals at using body language to convey certain emotions and thoughts. They are called actors. I ‘ll talk about watching them next time.