Submitted Date 09/10/2019

I've traveled to enough foreign countries to know that body language is, indeed, a language. I didn't need to know a lick of Hebrew to understand that an elder lady was upset that my friend put her feet up on an empty bus seat, and no Sesotho was necessary to notice two teenagers flirting across a table. In writing anything other than picture books, body language is an essential part of making the reader feel connected to the characters and fully present in the scene. Although body language can be used to convey personality, it's most often an indication of a character's emotions. Below are some common emotions and corresponding body language that can be incorporated into your story or poem.

Anxious - biting lips, tapping feet

Bitter - peering eyes, sucking teeth

Grateful - touching heart, tilting head

Humiliated - covering face with hands, gasping

Indifferent - shrugging shoulders, leaning backwards

Jealous - giving a fake smile, widening eyes

Kindly - touching delicately, leaning in

Lazy - yawning, stretching

Mischevious - grinning, hiding hands

Nervous - sweating, rubbing arms or legs

Overwhelmed - sitting down, touching chest

Playful - bumping someone, ruffling hair

Quirky - grinning slyly, shifting eyes

Relieved - closing eyes, stretching arms

Stressed - grabbing hair, touching face

Thoughtful - placing hand on cheek, playing with hair

Uncomfortable - crossing legs, tensing shoulders

Vain - flipping hair, winking

Xenial - leaning toward others, patting someone's back

Yearning - clasping fingers, giving direct eye contact

Zealous - resting hands on hips, giving a firm hand shake


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  • Mary Jaimes-Serrano 4 years, 9 months ago

    Andrea, this is invaluable information. Thank you so much for sharing. I have been struggling lately with finding the right way to describe my MC's body language. The rest have been fairly simple to articulate, however this one not so much.

    • Andrea Hope 4 years, 9 months ago

      So glad it's helpful. Yes, we use body language so much but not often that we really think about the subtle differences.

  • Ceara 4 years, 9 months ago

    You are so right! Love this list, thank you so much for sharing!

  • No name 4 years, 9 months ago

    This is so accurate, I love the way you write!