March 18, 2021

Comedy Of Gestures - A Writing Tip

Can you guess what each is thinking
just based on their "gestures"?

I'm reading Chuck Palahniuk's Consider This, which is a neat little book with a lot of great writing advice, given in the author's usual direct speech (and peppered with fun little stories to illustrate).

One of the tips Palahniuk gives is to provide texture to your storytelling, and in particular your dialogues, by mixing in gestures. This makes the story come alive more (more "human"), as well as provides a tool to help figure out who's speaking without resorting endlessly to the "he said/she said" tags. Better yet if these movements contradict what's being said!

To help us, his students, Palahniuk suggests coming up with 50 quick wordless gestures we use every day to raise our awareness of them, and starts us off with a few already:

  1. Thumbs-up
  2. Thumb-and-index finger "okay"
  3. Knocking your fist lightly on your forehead to "recall" something
  4. Clutching your heart
  5. Hitchhiker's thumb (which can imply "get lost")
  6. Index finger held vertically against the lips, for "hush up"
  7. The hooked "come here" finger

  8. Here are 43 more I've come up with on the spot...
    Rigid posture, clenched fists, head high...
    Shuffling feet, hands raised in shock


  9. Scratching nose
  10. Looking up to think (perhaps because lying)
  11. Looking down in shame or shyness
  12. Avoiding eye contact (to try to avoid conflict or being noticed or stopped or otherwise hailed)
  13. Sticking out the tongue
  14. Rolling the eyes
  15. Biting the lower lip
  16. Tossing your hair
  17. Holding onto the back of the neck in discomfort
  18. Hiding hands deep inside pockets
  19. Hooking thumbs in pants
  20. Lifting the chin in defiance
  21. Yawning
  22. Closing eyes in pain 
  23. Blinking
  24. Winking
  25. Nodding the head
  26. Shaking the head
  27. Twirling the hair
  28. Holding arms crossed tightly over chest
  29. Head thrown back, arms open wide,
    large grin - you're free!
    Squishing arms a little around boobies to make them stand out (as distraction or mating ritual)
  30. Throwing hands up in frustration
  31. Pinching lips
  32. Nostrils flaring in barely repressed anger
  33. Tapping toe of shoe on the ground bashfully
  34. Hands on hips
  35. Flipping the bird
  36. Blowing a kiss
  37. Snapping teeth (clear warning...or come hither?)
  38. Pinching bridge of nose
  39. Holding pinky and thumb up to face as a "call me" sign
  40. Miming writing with a pen to ask for pen and paper while too busy talking to someone else (ex: phone)
  41. Holding hands up, either as "stop" or as a "I give up"
  42. Rolling shoulders and cracking neck (or knuckles) to get down for business
  43. Pulling on ear in thought
  44. Picking your nose
Anything else you can think of that could be added to this list? I think what would be cool, too, would be to also have a whole list of gestures that could mean something different in another culture, like when Ross was telling Emily "Time out!" and she took offense, stating "Well up yours too!" (yeah, I like FRIENDS) :)  



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