Good morning on this Friday in autumn. Welcome to the CAN blog on writing from Gail Gaymer Martin
Today I want to talk about another element of creating characterization through using character mannerisms. When you think about people you know, notice what they do with their bodies, hands and facial expressions as well as their stance, stride and actions. Mixed in with the natural way we move and act, we can always see a few personal mannerisms. These are often related to their person’s attitude or emotional response.
Here’s some things to think about.
Characters and Their Mannerisms
A man cracks his knuckles or jingles change in his pocket. A woman pushes up her bangs or taps her fingernails. Another man removes and replaces his eye glasses, or a woman bites the edge of her fingernail. Some people are knee-bouncers. Others are toe-tappers. Many are clothes-tuggers.
Do you notice these actions in people? If you haven’t the next talk show you watch, pay attention to the habits/mannerisms of some of the guests or the host of the show. Nail biting, These are called mannerisms or, some call them idiosyncracies. Some habits go beyond touching their own body. Some people are lint-pickers. Some are rug-straighteners. Others fool with chair arm-covers or click their ballpoint pen.
Personal actions, such as these, can be used effectively in fiction to enhance characterization and to provide an attitudinal or emotional signal for the reader. Mannerisms can alert the reader when the heroine is nervous. In a tension situation, show her running her fingers through her hair or rubbing the back of her neck. Later in the story, use this again when she’s under stress. The action has now been established as a signal that she is feeling nervous or uptight. Never over use a mannerism. Decide where they will be most effective and then let them enhance the story. A detective might notice the behavior and realizes the heroine knows more than she’s admitting. A romantic suitor could be aware that his advances are not be well-received for some reason. This allows readers to be part of the awareness. Rather than telling them, you’re showing, and this allows them to participate in the discovery.
In the same way that attire, choice of color and style provides insight into characterizations, so do mannerisms so use them to provide information that deepens characterization and establishes a mood within the scene.
Even the names you give your characters help to define who they are which will be the subject of my next post to you in December.
December reminds me of Christmas and if you are wanting to read stories about Christmas to get your ready for the amazing seasons, you might want to take a look at one of my recent novels titled Yuletide Treasures
Livy Schuler thinks she has her life planned. But visiting the Mandalay family at Christmas with her young nephew introduces her to new traditions and a new way life. From her cousin Helen and the secret gift of two hearts bound as one which Livy’s brother asked her to deliver to Helen, she learns the true meaning of love. Can she let her plans fade to explore the possibility of a love ever after? For details click here