Writing body language through emotions

Updated: Jul 8, 2021


I think it's safe to say that we've all done a deep google search for a novel at least once in our lives, whether it's for finding the perfect name for a character or the perfect type of dagger for a cold-blooded murder. Well, I can wholeheartedly admit that I've done both, and have felt the same overburden of ideas in my swamped brain.


Writing body language can either be as easy as breathing, or maddening to the point of hysteria. From experience, I remember how exasperating it would be to think of a gesture or expression that complimented the narrator's emotions at that precise moment. I remember plunging into a cascade of research, searching for the perfect word, and I'm certain I'm not the only one who's felt this way before.


Here's the thing - You don't have to do that anymore. With this convenient post, I will be giving you the best possible body languages your character can make, all depending on their emotions at any given time. You can thank me later.


Anticipation - rubs hands together, licks lips, unable to sit still, grins

Awe - slack-jawed, unable to make a lot of movement, fixed gaze

Amusement - throws head back, slaps thighs, claps hands, shakes with laughter

Anger - shakes/clenches fist, points finger accusingly, stabs finger at something/someone, slams fit on a table, flushed face, throbbing veins in the neck, jutting chin, clenched jaw, lowered eyebrows, squints eyes, bares teeth, wide stance, tight-lipped smile

Annoyance - presses lips together, narrows/rolls eyes, exasperated sigh

Anxiety - fidgets, twists a ring, chews on a pencil, bites lip, swallows gulps constantly, quickened breathing, holds breath, darting eyes, sweats, clammy palms, high-pitched laughter, hunched posture, paces, stutters, plays with hair

Attentiveness - furrows eyebrows, leans forward, sits up, takes notes, mimics body language

Boredom - yawns, avoids eye contact, taps feet, twirls a pen, doodles

Confidence - clasps arms behind body, lifts head, pushes chest out, stands tall, makes firm/precise movements

Contempt - lifts chin, purses lips together, sneers, stretches/turns away, dismissive hand-waving

Cynical - twists lips, half-smiles, shakes head, presses lips with a slight frown, rolls eyes

Deception - one sided shoulder shrug, looks down, scratches nose/ear/neck, feet kicks out/shuffles involuntarily, sudden change in demeanour, hesitation in speech, shifty eye contact, long blinks, shrugs, unwarranted smiles or laughter, covers/touches mouth

Defensive - crosses arms/legs, arms out with palms forward, hands up, places anything in front of body, hands in pockets

Desire - flirtatious behaviour, winks, looks up through lashes, glances over the shoulder, makes eye contact, touches hair/clothing, straightens spine, strikes a 'cowboy' pose with thumbs in belt, dilated pupils, arches/stretches, women crosses/uncrosses legs

Disbelief - wide-eyed (shock), narrow-eyed (skeptical), twists mouth, creases eyebrows

Disgust - crinkles nose, curls lip, flinches, turns away, covers nose, gags, squints eyes shut, gives cold shoulder

Displeasure - fakes smile, pouts/frowns, crosses arms over chest

Distress - strokes/rubs nape of neck, widens eyes, shallow rapid breathing, huddles in corner, clasps hands over head, rocks back and forth, runs hands through hair, adjusts cuffs

Embarrassment - blushes, stammers, covers face with hands, bows head, trouble maintaining eye contact, looks down and away, blinks back tears

Fatigue - rubs eyes, stares into space, yawns/stretches, nods off and jerks awake, grits teeth, closes eyes, slouches

Fear - hunches shoulders, shrinks back, gaping mouth, widens eyes, shakes/trembles, freezes, rocks from side to side, wraps arms around self, shaking hands

Frustration - shakes head, massages temples, clasps wrist in opposite hand or behind back, aggressively runs hands through hair, shows white knuckles

Grief - curls into fetal position, face contorts, slumps, covers face with hands, stares into nothing, shakes with sobs, trembles, turns away, difficulty swallowing

Happiness - smiles, laughs, hums a tune, crinkle-eyed/nose, swings arms, spins loosely, dances, jumps, hugs, giggles

Honesty - maintains eye contact, smiles with eyes/mouth, looks up, palms up

Impatience - nods quickly, taps fingers/feet, sighs, checks the clock, increases pitch in voice

Jealousy - tight-lipped, sour expression, narrows eyes, crossed arms

Overwhelmed - palms to forehead, splayed fingers cover eyes with one hand, eyes wide and staring into space, hands grip onto something

Passion - leans forward, nods, wide-eyed, steady eye contact, raises eyebrows, hand on heart, double-handed handshake, feet pointed inwards

Playfulness - winks, waggles eyebrows, nudges, smiles

Pleasure - tilts head back, parts lips slightly, eyes wide or closed, languorous movements, stretches, arches neck/back, flushes, quick breath/pulse

Possessiveness - handshake with an arm clasp, places hands on or around shoulders/neck/waist, places hands on wall near head, runs knuckle down cheek, fixed stare

Pride - chin up, flared chest, shoulders back, hard handshake, leans back with hands behind head and feet up, unblinking focused eye contact, hands on hips, straddles chair

Reluctance - crosses arms, makes fists, drags feet, pinches nose, puts hand over ears

Sadness - droopy body, bowed, wraps arms around self, hesitating movements, bottom lip jutting out/quivering, cries, shakes

Secretiveness - tight-lipped smile, hands in pockets, looks down/away, covers face

Shame - slumped shoulders, looks down/away, buries face into hands, bows head, straight mouth

Shock - hands over mouth, gaping mouth, gasps, freezes, stares with wide eyes, raised eyebrows, smacks palm against forehead, steps back

Shyness - blushes, avoids eye contact, keeps distance from others, backs away if others come too close, folds arms

Smugness - close-lipped smile, raised eyebrow, slightly tucked chin, enigmatic smile

Suspicion - narrows eyes, glances sideways, raises eyebrow, rubs eyes, shakes head, blows out cheeks, frowns, tightens lips

Thoughtfulness - pinches nose, closes eyes, tugs ear, strokes real/imaginary beard, furrows brow, narrows eyes, tilts head, presses lips together, rests chin on hand, leans back, looks up

Triumph - clenches hands above head, tilts head back, yells, pumps fist into the air, jumps, roars, whoops


All credit goes to www.writerswrite.co.za


If you made it to the end, let me know by commenting your favourite colour! See you in the next post honeys <3


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