Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Necessary and unnecessary gestures

I am finally revising my YA novel, moving from first draft to a sort-of second draft. This is where I am rewriting my too-much-telling-not-showing first chapter; cutting unnecessary adverbs; and starting to add "texture" and "layers."

One of my attempts at texture is to add gestures to my characters. I figure when they're talking to one another, the reader should be able to know what they look like in that moment—otherwise, they're just mannequins with dialog coming out of their mouths. But this is so much harder than I had imagined it would be. In rereading what I've written/recently rewritten, I've found at least two characters who tap their feet when they talk. Yikes!

So I tried to think about recognizable fictional characters and what their signature gestures might be and all I could come up with is Harry Potter rubbing his scar. Surely other characters in Harry Potter had recognizable and repeated physical gestures, but I can't think of any. Maybe the gestures become so much a part of their whole physical portrait that nothing particular can be pulled out. I can envision Ron slumping around and Hermione intently studying, but if they tapped their feet or rubbed their faces, I don't remember it.

The problem with Harry Potter is that the characters in my mind are often replaced with the actors who played them in the movie, e.g., Dolores Umbrage is now Imelda Staunton cruelly strutting around in her pink suit, wand ready to inflict pain.

Perhaps I should try to imagine actors playing my novel characters to see what gestures and other stylish flourishes they might take on.

1 comment:

Nancy Strickland Hawkins said...

I am about 12,000 words into my novel (not including the thousands I've trashed), and I'm at an impasse. Maybe visualizing my characters with gestures would help.