Friday, October 30, 2015

A Two-Handed Clasp

She's very famous. Wins about every award out there. People line up to buy her books. She's every bookstore's favorite because at a signing she works the room and greets every person there.

When she shakes hands with her adoring fans, she uses a two-handed clasp.

And just what does she mean by that? Warmth? Comradery? Is she conveying caring? There's no doubt in my mind she genuinely is happy to see each person she greets and her very personal handshake expresses gratitude.

But as to us lessor lights, I think a two-handed clasp can convey a different message especially in ordinary situations. To me a two-handed clasp by someone I'm meeting for the first time in a non-writerly setting conveys insincerity. I'm immediately wary. I back away from overly familiar people.

Body language is a minefield for mystery writers. Never mind delving into countries outside the United States. That's too exhausting to think about.

Even tip-toeing through the nuances in the good 'ol USA can be tricky because there are also regional customs that can trip us up.

He said, she said, can be dreadfully boring. Dialogue broken up by description of what characters are doing provides context and also projects an imagine. When someone other than our protagonist is speaking in a scene, what is our protagonist doing? Are her hands at rest? Does she listen intently? Does she squirm in the chair. Drum her fingers? Twist her hair? We convey a lot without saying a word.

One of the clearest and most annoying signals of insincerity to me in "mixing" situations is for someone to look me intently in the eyes as through they are listening and then look over my shoulder at someone else. Several times. It's time to move on.

There are a jillion books out there on reading body language. I'm thinking hard about improving character tags and spiffing up personalities. TV is a great resource. I try to pay attention to the facial expressions of the best actors. Trying to describe the set of jaw, the lines of their faces, their eyes, is wonderful practice.

I don't think we have study all this very hard. We know how we feel about body language. Our interpretation is usually accurate without having to think about it.

It's describing it that's the pits.

1 comment:

Donis Casey said...

This is very good. I'm going to steal it for the next time I'm doing a session on dialog.