How to Describe Character Posture In Your Writing
By describing both the big and nuanced ways your characters appear in your writing, you can paint a more vivid, rounder picture. Different types of posture can affect the body movements of a character and show even more detail about them, conveying more than just how they look, but what they’re feeling as well.
- Understand basic posture. A character with good posture—someone who stands up straight or sits up at attention—may exude confidence, be a stickler for rules, or be very responsible and disciplined. You can convey a lot about a character by how they move and behave in a good sitting position or standing position. When writing bad posture, slouching or poor sitting posture may be considered disrespectful, and allude to an impoliteness or aloofness about a character.
- Play against cliché. Once you understand the basics of how body positions can inform personality, you can use this to subvert expectations of a character via their posture by using contrasting traits. For example, a male character may be written as having a strong, physical body type, but always leans back on his heels when arguing, indicating a fear of confrontation.
- Include context. Your character’s poor posture or reclining body position at home on their couch is different than them appearing that way at a wedding or birthday party. Considering the correct posture at the right times in your writing can make all the difference in how your character is conveyed.
- Use posture to indicate health or age. Without a character listing their entire medical history, you can get a general idea of their health or physical ability by describing the way their body parts move. A high-energy businessman who normally puffs out his chest suddenly needing to lean on a desk during a meeting might indicate a heart issue or lower back pain due to a recent injury. Knowing this can inform who this person is, or hint at a storyline, plot twist, or backstory that may be relevant later. Posture can also suggest the age of a character—an older man may hunch over when he walks, or a young girl character may suddenly square her shoulders when speaking to adults. Small indicators that point to a larger picture of a character will help the reader envision their existence in your world more clearly.
- Suggest mood through posture. Muscle tension due to nervousness coupled with various facial expressions—lack of eye contact or the inability to look another character face-to-face—can indicate how a character is feeling without them having to say a word. A character who continuously shifts their body weight between their feet may be anxious or have something they’re hiding. A character who folds their arms across their upper body when asked a question may be acting defensively or not in the mood to socialize. Descriptions like these can help provide the reader with a specific image of a character’s type through your writing.
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