Once again I am delighted to introduce Margie Lawson as our January Guest Blogger. She is here to teach us More Secrets to Writing Irresistible Fiction…and she’s brought another give-away!
More Secrets to Writing Irresistible Fiction
Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
By Margie Lawson
A whopping 93% of all communication messages are nonverbal.
Anywhere and everywhere — only 7% of the communication can be attributed to the words.
We are always communicating. There’s no OFF button.
What’s the implication for writers? The odds are good that writers need more nonverbals on the page. They need more subtext to qualify and deepen the interactions.
Body language includes:
HAPTICS — communication by touch
KINESICS – communicating by body movement
PROXEMICS – communicating by body positioning
TELLS – unconscious signals that communicate anxiety, aversion, and deception
GESTURE TYPES — movement of arms and hands associated with speech
DIALOGUE CUES – how writers inform readers how the dialogue was delivered
FACIAL EXPRESSIONS – include eyes, eyebrows, lips, mouth, jaw, forehead, full face, and flicker-face
BLOG GUESTS: Wish I could cover all those topics in the blog today. I’d need to fill several hundred pages . . . like I have in my on-line courses and Lecture Packets.
TODAY – I’ll share examples of Dialogue Cues and Facial Expressions.
I coined the term DIALOGUE CUES (DC) to describe the phrases and sentences that inform the reader how the dialogue was delivered. Dialogue Cues share the SPEED, TONE, QUALITY, VOLUME, and PITCH.
Writers need to consider the EMOTIONAL SET of their characters, the SETTING, and the SITUATION. Those three dynamics impact the SPEED, TONE, QUALITY, VOLUME, and PITCH of dialogue.
Let’s check out how authors capture Dialogue Cues on the page.
Here are some DIALOGUE CUES from HARLAN COBEN’s 2009 release, Long Lost (Myron Bolitar). For this section – I selected dialogue cues that all speak to TONE.
1. I expected Jack to give an “awww, Mom,” but maybe he heard something in her tone too.
2. I had thought about the strange tone in his voice, near panic.
3. “Must be divine,” Win said in a voice richly marinated in sarcasm.
“Oh, it’s nothing special,” Paintball said, not picking up on Win’s tone.
4. I was about to crack wise—something like “tell all your friends” or “sigh, another satisfied customer”—but something in her tone made me pull up. Something in her tone overwhelmed me and made me ache. I squeezed her hand and stayed silent and then I watched her walk away.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Note the Stimulus and Response pattern above.
5. I made eye contact with the man I’d fought with in Paris. I kept my tone even, controlled.
DIALOGUE CUES – From The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel, by DAVID WROBLEWSKI.
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY:
It took David Wroblewski fourteen years to write THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE. During that fourteen years, David earned an MFA, and quit writing for over a year. He thought the book would never be fit to be published.
When he returned to writing, he reviewed his 500+ pages of his INCOMPLETE BOOK – and went back and switched it from 3rd person to 1st person POV. It took him over two months to complete that POV switcheroo.
He spent another few years finishing and polishing the book. He queried literary agents – pitching his 770 page manuscript. He got an agent. He got a contract.
Oprah liked his book. She selected it for her book club. WOW!
THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE resided at the top, #1, or near the top of the New York Times Bestseller list for over a year.
Here are some of David Wroblewski’s dialogue cues.
1. Ida didn’t hold out her hands or come around the counter, nor was there a grandmotherly note in her voice. If anything her tone was incurious and weary, though benign.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Showing what wasn’t happening (above). A powerful technique I cover in DEEP EDITING.
2. “I’ll stay here,” he calls back. The wind makes his voice tinny and small.
3. Something in the sound of her voice made Edgar’s legs go weak.
4. Then his mother was calling, “Edgar! Edgar!” Her voice toylike and shrunken.
5. “How did he know?” she said. She took a tremulous breath. Tears spilled onto her cheeks. She began to walk toward the porch, hands fisted at her side. Then her strides lengthened and she was running and her voice rose to a wail, asking the same question over and over.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Lots of EMOTIONAL HITS in the example above. The Dialogue Cue was slipped in to add power.
DIALOGUE CUES from Black Out, by LISA UNGER:
1. I snap back to the conversation and listen for signs of skepticism in her voice. But there’s just her usual light and musing tone, the wide-open expression on her face.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Contrasting what wasn’t happening to what was happening.
2. His tone has shifted from friendly and chatty to slightly more serious. He has stopped nodding and smiling and has fixed me with his gaze.
3. I kept my voice flat and unemotional. I didn’t want him to know my heart—how afraid I was, how much I needed him.
4. “You promised me,” I said, my voice sounding childish even to my own ears.
QUICK ANALYSIS: POV character describes own voice (above).
5. Gray’s gaze keeps shifting back and forth between me and his father. “Are you telling me he was there? Marlowe Geary? That she killed him? His voice is a hard edge, tight with emotion; his fists are clenched at his side.
Dialogue Cues from SUSAN WIGGS’s historical, Halfway To Heaven.
- The man said a word Abigail had never heard before, though his furious tone made her blush.
- His tone indicated a decided lack of interest.
- His tone was mild enough, but she knew his every nuance. A subtle censure edged his words.
- “I loved him with all that I was,” the princess said, her voice taking on a tone of confession.
- Though she spoke beautifully, there was a subtle undercurrent to her tone that Abigail disliked.
The examples below are from DONNA DALTON’S release, The Cavalry Wife, from The Wild Rose Press, 2007. I chose all tone examples for this section.
- I may just let you have her. (IN ITALICS)He was joking, of course. Yet something pinched. His tone. The quickness of the remark, as thought the thought was already formed.
- A cold bite laced his forceful tone. Will ignored the warning.
- His unreadable expression and even tone revealed little of his mood.
- The Indian chief narrowed his eyes and studied her as though looking for some sign of deception. When he spoke, his tone was a stiff mixture of skepticism and expectation.
- The brave jabbed his flag-draped branch in the air and spoke in his deep, guttural tongue. Though he didn’t understand the words, Chase understood the tone. Forceful and unrelenting. His gut knotted.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Powerful use of Stimulus/Response, including a visceral response.
Looks and Gazes and Glances and Facial Expressions
C.J. Box, Three Weeks to Say Goodbye
1. Garrett looked at me blankly. Something in his eyes disturbed me. It was as if he saw me as someone who couldn’t possibly understand him, and I was not worth an explanation.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Fresh and amplified interpretation of a look.
2. Then he smiled outright, and something danced behind his eyes. I felt a chill roll down my back.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Stimulus/Response
3. And I caught the “See? What did I tell you?” look Garrett gave Luis after she was gone.
4. He locked eyes with me, and I felt a chill that made the hair on my arms rise.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Stimulus/Response
5. On the sidewalk, he paused, and I caught up with him. I’d never seen him so furious. The skin of his face was pulled back, slitting his eyes and making his mouth a snarl.
Brad Meltzer, The Book of Lies
1. On my left my father stares at Ellis, then Timothy, then back at Ellis.
Then he looks at me.
I see desperation every day. For the homeless, it overrides despair, depression, even fear. But when my dad’s wide eyes beg for help . . . I’ve seen that look before—all those years ago when the cops came and they arrested him.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Using an amplified internalization about a look – to slip in backstory. Powerful.
2. To be honest, I thought my dad was bullshitting when he said he didn’t know what was in the truck, but from the confusion on his face, this is news to him.
3. Most people turn away when you ask them a hard question. Serena continues to look straight at me, and her yellow blue eyes . . . I hate to say it . . . there’s a real depth to her stare.
4. She looks at me in silence for what seems like a full minute.
5. “And stop giving me that my-boy’s-become-a-man-look!”
Lisa Unger, Black Out
1. He barely reacts, but I see a muscle clench in his jaw beneath the shadow of black stubble.
2. I saw the ugly in him for a second, a dog baring his teen. Then he softened, turned a sweet smile on my mother.
3. We’re staring at each other, neither one of us looking away. Finally she smiles. But it’s not a friendly smile; in it I see some combination of malice and pity. My gut lurches a bit. I look away quickly.
4. Vivian walks over and sits beside me, rests a hand on my leg. I examine her face for signs of judgment and disapproval. But I just see compassion and worry. And the shade of something else I can’t quite put my finger on.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Haptics (touch); sharing what was expected, but didn’t present; included vague expression
5. I remember his face from last night; he’d seemed nice. Kind and without artifice. I’d liked him. But there’s something else I see in him as I open the door that I don’t like: suspicion. Today he’s a wolf at my door.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Showed contrast. News of a difference. Added metaphor of predator.
6. “Detective Harrison,” I say, offering my best fake smile. “Are you checking in on us? I keep my body in the door frame, careful not to welcome him in with my words or gestures.
QUICK ANALYSIS: Interprets body language for reader.
7. The detective is looking toward the door now. He hasn’t seated himself again, stands with his hands in his pockets. He does a little rocking thing, heel to toe, toe to heel. That Cheshire-cat look he had is long gone. He’s a coward, I think. The kind of bully who would corner the skinny kid on a playground, then lift his palms and wider his eyes in mock innocence when the teacher comes.
Stephen White, Missing Persons (Alan Gregory)
1. The fire in her eyes, if focused, could have ignited candles across the street.
2. The glare degraded into a face that was merely suspicious.
3. Our gazes failed to connect by about ten degrees. It was as though he were blind, wanted to find my gaze, but couldn’t quite manage to make eye contact.
4. He suddenly shifted his gaze and we locked eyes for a period of time that was about the duration of a solitary flap of a hummingbird’s wings. There, and then gone.
Now you’ve had a taste of how to write fresh body language and dialogue cues. I dig deep into teaching mode in my lectures. I dissect hundreds of examples and provide detailed analyses.
I’ll be back next Tuesday to share more secrets of writing irresistible fiction. Now it’s your turn.
PLEASE CHIME IN!
POST A COMMENT – OR A FRESH BODY LANGUAGE OR DIALOGUE CUE FROM YOUR WIP – AND YOU MAY WIN A LECTURE PACKET!
I will draw a name for a Lecture Packet, a $22 value, at 9PM Mountain Time. Winners may choose a Lecture Packet from one of my six on-line courses. Lecture Packets are available for all my courses through Paypal from my website, www.MargieLawson.com.
1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
2. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
4. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life: Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting
5. Digging Deep into the EDITS System
6. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors
Margie Lawson —psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter—developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques for writers.
Her Deep Editing tools are used by all writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.
Over four thousand writers have learned Margie’s psychologically-based deep editing material. In the last five years, she presented fifty-two full day Master Classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Lectures from each of Margie’s on-line courses are offered as Lecture Packets through PayPal from her web site. For more information on courses, lecture packets, master classes, and 3-day Immersion Master Class sessions, visit: www.MargieLawson.com .
Thank you for joining us today!