A Cheat Sheet on Body Language for Writers

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Hi SEers. John with you today.

As a wrap-up to the subject of gestures (or beats) to convey non-verbal communication, I found a great cheat sheet for writers on body language. The cheat sheet is below the text and was developed by ArchetypeWriting.com.

The cheat sheet can be used in developing characterizations beyond having to explain just how your character is feeling. I hope you find this cheat sheet useful and perhaps dig deeper into the subject of body language.


I became more confident in using beats to convey my character’s emotions in looking into this subject. However, I got a comment from a beta reader on my next book that maybe I went a little too overboard on the beats. There is always a warning on using any of the writing tools. The writer should use moderation with all of them.

How about you? Let us hear in the comments your thoughts on beats, this cheat sheet, or anything else that is on your mind.


92 thoughts on “A Cheat Sheet on Body Language for Writers

  1. Pingback: A Cheat Sheet on Body Language for Writers – Written By John W. Howell – Writer's Treasure Chest

  2. This is wonderful reference for an author, John! Thank you for sharing! I am conscious of body language and always observe others for signs of how they really feel. It does work! I will use some of these in my books. I agree using them may confuse some while others will understand what they mean. Use in moderation is the best way. Thanks again, John! Hugs x

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: A Cheat Sheet on Body Language for Writers – MI way (Meristem Intelligence® way)

  4. I really liked that explanation about lying, John. I hadn’t heard that before. And I agree about having to find that fine line between too many beats, too much telling, and just letting the reader’s imagination fill in the details. Yeesh, not easy! Thanks for the great resource. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This cheat sheet is a keeper! Aren’t beta readers awesome? Too much of even a good thing can be overkill. I’m happy your beta reader spoke up. Still, this list would make it easier for a reader to be one with the story. Thanks for sharing, John! 🙂

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  6. An excellent reference, John. I keep my Emotion Thesaurus and Nicolas Rossi’s Emotional Beats book next to my computer and use them a lot. However, I think I fall into the category of using the same ones over and again. This is a good reminder to step outside the box. Thank you for sharing!! Great post!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I try to skip attributions when I can, use beats when I can’t, and fill in with occasional tags. (A million “said/asked” on a page is dull.) And if your characters are distinct, their voices should be, too, so you shouldn’t need an attribution for everything. I hope I use the proper mix.

    I love the cheat sheet. I’m sure I rely on the same actions over and over, and while I love The Emotion Thesaurus and the authors’ many companion works, sometimes I’m just too lazy or too busy to stop and look through a book or twelve. This will be a handy reference. Thanks, John.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Bookmarked! Immensely practical help, John. These gestures are a great example of ‘show don’t tell’ and prevent endless iterations of said/shouted/snarled etc.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I’m always on the lookout for cheat sheets and will add this one to my collection. I prefer a blend of beats and tags with an emphasis on beats. There’s nothing quite as boring as a page full of “he said, she said.” The key is a proper balance. Thanks, John

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Pingback: A Cheat Sheet on Body Language for Writers | Legends of Windemere

  11. Good list, John! I haven’t seen some of these before, and the explanations are helpful. Agreed with your caution to be moderate with these. I have noticed that after advice about something makes its way around the blogosphere, its followed by advice NOT to do that, or at least not to do it too much.

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