karensdifferentcorners

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Expressive Hands

I talk with my hands. No I don’t know sign language and no I’m not Italian, even though people have asked me if I am.  My hands have a mind of their own and many times I don’t realize what they are doing until I realize the person I’m talking to, is staring at them.  My hands will wave and point. Sometimes my palms will go up and my fingers will splay out. Then there are times during stress that my hands will clench and release.

Our hands are probably one of the most expressive parts of our body. They say the eyes are the window to our souls, but our hands can tell people when we are happy, sad, stressed, and angry

Hands can be warm, cold, soft, or rough and calloused. Some hands are small while others are large. There are fat  stubby fingers and long slender ones.  It’s been said, “Cold hands are a sign of a warm heart.”

I have read that when we write dialogue, our characters should be doing something. When we talk, we don’t just stand there like a statue.  If you are talking to me, my hands are all over the place, but not everyone talks with grand gestures. What are your characters doing as they talk to each other? Are their hands clasped behind their back? Is he drumming his fingers on the desk? Maybe she is checking out her manicure.

A tear rolls down his cheek and she gently wipes it away with the tip of her finger.

He shoves his hands in his pockets and looks at the ground.

As you are reading this what are your hands doing? Are they folded in your lap? Maybe you’re  tapping on your desk or pulling at that loose thread on your shirt.  Scratching, touching, helping, clenching, adjusting our clothes, or running our fingers through our hair, our hands  always seem to be doing something.

When we describe our characters we always touch on the obvious. Tall, thin, curvy, dark hair, light skin, etc. But what do your character’s hands say about them?

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17 Comments

  1. Great post! I shall have to take a closer look and think about this!

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    • Hi Rebecca! It is something that we normally don’t think about and yet our hands are constantly doing something. Also by describing the hands you can also give an idea to your readers as to what kind of life your characters have led.

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      • Good point. I actually have a lot of trouble describing characters at all, partly due to my difficulty in recognizing faces. It’s just not how my mind works, and my characters are pretty much stuck with doing and saying, not appearing, which is okay sometimes but not quite enough.

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  2. Great post! I don’t think most of us are aware of how much we use our hands when we talk; I became quite aware of this the first time I was on a Skype call and I could see myself the way the other person saw me–hands flying in and out of the picture!

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    • Haha! Yep that’s me! Even when I’m talking to myself… er… have characters talking in my head 🙂 My hands are going everywhere.

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  3. A very nice insight. I’ll have to keep it in mind when I write my own stories.

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    • For me when it comes to descriptions I tend to fizzle out 🙂 Especially when I’m writing dialogue.

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  4. So true. And as to faces there is only so much wide-eyed stares and furrowed brows you can use! 🙂 Maybe by looking at individual body parts and how we use them will give our characters more depth.

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  5. I’ve very expressive with my hands. I’d have to say it also translates into more than a few of my characters. I like to set a scene. In doing so I often show the reader what people do with their hands. 🙂

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    • Hi Vickie
      I have a character that clenches and unclenches her hands and twiddles her fingers when she’s stressed or nervous.

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  6. Great post. I do try to write about what my characters are doing when they talk, whether it’s walking, preparing a meal, fiddling with the hem of the shirt, etc.
    As I read this I had one hand on my mouth and the other tucked under my chin. 🙂

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  7. Well said, Karen.

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  8. Actually, my hands were scrolling as I read your excellent post. haha
    I think my characters act out with their facial expressions and their eyes more than anything. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the fact that I DO know sign language, and so everything I do with my hands actually means something. Then again, 2/3 of sign language is body language, not hands.
    You’ve given me something important to think about as I write the second draft of my novel. Thank you. 🙂

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  9. For some reason this post reminds me of an old Peanuts comic strip where someone compliments Linus on his drawing, but asks why he always draws people with their hands behind their back.

    “I can’t draw hands,” he explains. Yes, an artist has to be resourceful!! : )

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    • You know, I have seen that comic! Yes, no matter what type of artist we are, we have to be resourceful and creative. 🙂

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