mr.-body

Tips on Writing Characters Without Faces

so yeah, we all know that facial expressions can tell us a lot about how a character is feeling, but what if that isn’t an option? how can you make someone emote if they don’t really have standard facial features? the answer; body language.

let’s consider how emotions are conveyed on a stage production vs movie with Sweeney Todd. First, the stage play:

Note how Todd’s entire upper body goes into his gestures, how he’s single-mindedly focused on his dreams and ideals; how his hands GRAB for each imaginary ‘man’ with these sharp, aggressive, destructive movements and how that contrasts with Mrs. Lovett’s body language; how her hands linger in the air and gravitate towards Todd even after he’s pulled away, and the slow turn she gives him. It does an excellent, though exaggerated, way of conveying their relationship (her focus is on him and making him happy, his focus is entirely on revenge)

Contrast this to the movie:

Originally posted by curiousitykilledthekat

Same lines in the song, much more subtle. Lovett’s eyes still track towards Todds, which reminds us she’s still more focused on the outside, but all of the emotion is in their faces. Were this not a close-up shot in a movie it’d be very, very hard to read their expressions.

While I do recommend you watch a few stage plays (in person near the back row if you can) to actually study body language for yourself or try out charades with your face covered with friends/watch how cosplayers or mascots emote, here’s a few shorthands to get you started (US-centric so expressions may vary on your region):

Head:

  • perfectly still - fear, intense attention, feeling under scrutiny
  • tilted up - recollection, intimidation (looking down nose at threat, aiming to appear taller)
  • tilted down - intense thought, shame (avoiding eye contact), depression/sad feelings
  • turned away - not giving person full attention, avoiding subject/conflict without being combative
  • cocker-spaniel (sideways) tilt - confusion, curiosity, amusement

Hands

  • at the forehead - fatigue (wiping away sweat), illness (checking self for fever, feeling a headache), realization/memory (a ‘well duh’ tap)
  • at the eyes - fatigue or headache (shielding eyes from light), distress (blocking out a painful view, concealing tears)
  • at the nose - disgust (a pinch at the nostrils,) irritation (rubbing at sore spot on nose from glasses wear)
  • at the mouth - nausea, surprise, repressing an emotion/stopping self from saying something
  • at the chin - contemplation, tiredness (face resting in hand)
  • rubbing back of neck - a need to relax tension, embarrassment, slight unease/desire to distract self
  • at the chest - surprise, self-protection (reaction to a wounding statement, sometimes used sarcastically), strong emotions (clutching at heart, could be good-strong or bad-strong), need for security (touching necklace/adjusting clothing to conceal more)
  • at the stomach - pain (clutching, pressing), satisfaction after a meal, protectiveness towards fetus when applicable
  • at the hip(s) - confidence, intimidation, nervousness (if grabbing for weapon)
  • at groin - concealment/unease (usually male-coded as protection of genitals), politeness (hands folded in lap)
  • on thighs - exhaustion (bent over, hands on legs supporting tired upper body)
  • formed into fists - holding back an intense emotion, preparing to fight
  • toying with something - restlessness (bored, nervous energy, craving something they can’t touch) or deliberate disrespect of property (playing with personal objects someone holds dear as an intimidation tactic)

Arms

  • at sides, relaxed - default posture
  • at sides, tense - unease, restraint (soldier at attention, person holding still to avoid being attacked), fear
  • crossed at chest - disapproval, displaying authority, unease (hugging oneself)
  • crossed at stomach - pain, intense laughter (caused by sore stomach muscles from laughing)
  • up, fingers laced behind head - confidence, relaxation
  • one arm on back of furniture - confidence, invitation for someone join them
  • general rule - the further arms are away from body, the more confident/dominant a person means to appear; exposed torso indicates that they don’t see anyone around as a threat to them

Legs

  • square with shoulders - professional, restraint, protective stance
  • wide stance, one foot a little back but planted - defensive stance, expecting to receive blows (knees may be unlocked - seen in swordplay and fencing)
  • weight on one leg - relaxed, tired, may also be leaning on something or pair with one ankle tucked behind the other
  • uneven stance - could indicate old injury
  • foot tapping/bouncing - boredom, nervous energy

Whole Body:

  • stiff and still - fear, unease, standing to attention
  • limp or pliant - relaxed, tired, pleased
  • shoulders back/head up - alert, focused, aggressive
  • shoulders forward, hunched - tired, ashamed
  • leaning towards person - interest, intimidation (looming over them), aggression (usually paired with tense arms or hands in fists,)
  • leaning away from person - relaxation, confidence, disgust (recoiling)
  • smooth/fluid movements - joy, confidence, experience
  • stiff motions - fear (reactive, fight or flight), pain (reluctance to move), anger (either fighting to keep control of emotions or lashing out), cold (conservation of heat by keeping limbs near body)
  • cracking joints/stretching - preparing for a fight, often reading as confidence in abilities
  • general rule - close contact/proximity can read as intimidation (paired with tense body - an invasion of personal space) or affection (paired with relaxaed body language, gentle movement) or passion/attraction while distance can read unease/distaste/fear/dislike.

with those in mind, let’s read this scene from Red vs Blue (a personal fav of mine for body language) featuring agent texas from season 8.

Originally posted by cryingmanlytears

So first of all, very relaxed upper body; limp arms held away from the body, which slowly come back to rest on her hips as she looks at what she’s done. Watch how her lean shifts at the end as her center of gravity shifts, and how she has to move her right leg to restabilize herself when she’s finished pushing it. This reads, in order from the start of the loop; detachment (the least amount of her body is involved in the action as possible), relaxation (smooth movements, the deliberation of those little steps backwards) and confidence (hands on hips.) We can tell a ton about this character just in this gif alone, based on her body language.

in summary! this list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully it gives you some ideas for ways of making characters emote in fics when you can’t see their faces.

Someone
  • : : BECAUSE MOFFAT JUST NEEDS TO SHUT HIS FACE HOLE SOMETIMES
  • ~
  • *Molly's flat*
  • John: *knocking*
  • -a few minutes later-
  • Molly: *opens the door, wearing a dressing gown; dishevelled and grinning* Hi, John.
  • John: *blinks* Um...I just wanted to check on you. After...
  • Molly: *dismissive* Euros? Yeah, Sherlock explained everything and I'm fine.
  • John: *raises his eyebrows* You're fine? Just like that?
  • Molly: *nods* I had a drink. I shagged someone.
  • John: ...
  • Sherlock: *standing shirtless in the kitchen* I'm someone *grins*
  • John: ...
  • Molly: *smiles* He loves me.
  • Sherlock: *eating biscuits; pointing* And she loves me.
  • John: *smiles*

Operation Valentine’s Day

I couldn’t possibly miss out on this golden opportunity of a holiday when this handsome synth has stolen my heart now could i? One could say it would be a crime if i did!

I was busy today so catching up on msgs and gonna kill 2 birds with 1 stone here.

Got tagged by @fitness-my-way for a sds. I tag @nikigettingfit @outtawine @coffeeandfitblr @starrysky0612 @justanother44 @fit-and-sound and anyone else

Also it’s DAY 1 of @mr-adamantiumlegs and @imhellafit May Challenge #DONTQUITWALLSIT. 10 seconds down! Hope none of you forgot! Post your pic and tag #dontquitwallsit.

8

Making some transparent Ricks and… Uh… Well, leave no Rick not included I suppose. Although… This is just getting weird now. Justin and Dan really outdone themselves, huh? You ever think they’ll make an episode? Mr. Needful’s revenge, maybe (yes, I know he’s not a Rick, but you can’t make a nice looking picture set with seven pictures, it’s impossible!).

Anyway.

Feel free to use if you want to for whatever nefarious purposes you like.

[Set 01] [Set 02] [Set 03]

[Council of Ricks] [NPC Ricks] [Seven Ricked Sins]

do u even realize how petty Nathaniel, Mr Student Body President, is like :

  • “how about u make peace with Castiel now that the whole Deborah thing is cleared up” asks Candy. “lol nope” answers Nathaniel.
  • “it’s nice to have someone to hate ! it helps you appreciate everyone else more !”
  • Armin makes an ~innocent~ comment about Candy’s chest. Nathaniel proceeds to break his leg with a chair.
  • “sorry I didn’t do it on purpose !”
  • in the same vein : “one of my drumsticks just slipped out of my hand ! and I don’t know how, but it landed on Castiel !”
  • called Deborah a “garce” but I saw google translation translate the word to “bitch” and tbh same (official ts : “awful girl”)
  • jusrt ffuckinj slamed a door on his rival’s face. u talkin about my gf ? how about u say Hello to Mrs Locker Door right there here I’ll help u
8

You are truly amazing, you know that? We’re both better off now than we were two minutes ago, yet you’re angry about it because it didn’t happen your way. Might you consider for a fucking moment that your distrust of me is completely unwarranted? I warned you about Billy. Was I right? I found you over Mr. Gates’s body and did I do anything but defend you? When you were sinking to the bottom of the sea, who do you imagine it was who dragged you onto that beach? Brace yourself, but I’m the only person within a hundred miles of here who doesn’t want to see you dead.