The Author Encounter is excited to feature our supporter member Stacy Juba. She published her first novel at age eighteen, and over the years has written sweet and sassy chick lit novels, mysteries about determined women sleuths, and entertaining books for young adults and children. She has had novels ranked as #5 and #11 in the Nook Store and #30 on the Amazon Kindle Paid List. Stacy is also a freelance developmental editor, online writing instructor, and an award-winning journalist who has published more than 3,000 articles in newspapers and magazines. She is the founder of Shortcuts for Writers, and her goal is to take the writing and editing tips she learned in the trenches and simplify them for her clients and students. Her signature course, Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable, empowers fiction writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. She also runs the Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple group on Facebook. Visit her website to sign up for her free course Line Editing Made Simple – 5 Days to More Polished Pages. http://www.shortcutsforwriters.com
Stacy was gracious enough to give us a sample of the type of things she helps writers learn to improve like nonverbal communication and body language. If you’re like most authors, this is your Achilles heel. When you’re trying to convey your characters’ emotions, you return to your comfortable old standbys—bland words like looked, gazed, smiled, nodded, sighed, and frowned.
As a freelance developmental editor, I’ve seen this problem appear in many manuscripts. Authors rely on the same nonverbal words and phrases over and over again. As a result, their scenes lack emotional punch, their characters lack depth, and some of their word choices feel lackluster.
One way to breathe new life into your writing is to zero in on nonverbal communication and body language. You can get started by learning the nonverbal communication categories.
Categories of Nonverbal Communication
Gestures—Movements like twirling hair around the finger, drumming fingers against a table, toying with the straw in your drink, and tapping a foot up and down are a few examples.
Head movements and posture—Examples include cocking the head to the side, slumping forward, folding hands on the hips, or standing with shoulders pushed back.
Eye contact—This could include averting the gaze, nailing your gaze to someone, sneaking a glance, or sending a penetrating stare.
Facial expressions—Wrinkling the nose, pasting on an artificial smile, nibbling on the lower lip, and elevating an eyebrow are all types of facial expressions.
Touch—Examples are shaking hands, clapping someone on the back, engulfing a loved one into a warm hug, or shoving an opponent into the wall.
Voice—This could be speaking slowly or quickly, muttering, yelling, speaking tersely, having a sarcastic tone, or the voice trailing off.
Proxemics—Relates to personal space such as squirming away, stepping forward, inching closer, or towering over someone who is seated.
Appearance—A character’s choice of clothing, hairstyle, accessories, piercings, and tattoos are also a means of nonverbal communication. It can convey their personal style, status, health, and grooming.
Physiological changes and internal sensations—Includes flushing, heartbeat thundering, paling, sweating, panting, and the stomach tightening.
As you can see, if you consider all the different categories of nonverbal communication, you can go beyond your familiar crutch words. Next time you notice a trite nonverbal phrase in your manuscript, remember the categories and see whether you can go deeper.
If you’d like even more help with editing, check out my free 5-day line editing class https://billowing-water-5216.ck.page/69d3807d2b and my other resources at https://www.shortcutsforwriters.com/ including the Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions.