Gestures and Actions that are Character Traits
If a story is to come alive then it can only happen through rounded characters. Those are the type of characters who have something to say and do which will contribute to a story.
Making Characters live in Fiction Writing
The story comes alive when character is dynamic enough to express ideas and emotions that cause your reader to engage and feel something for a character.
While writing, you may come to a scene where the idea of character description seems obvious and has a purpose in the narrative. It may be that the idea that describing the environment once again seems like repetition. You go for a short description of what your character is doing or feeling. Very often a writer thinks about the idea that characters must be doing something otherwise they distance themselves from the reader and could be forgotten. So we write that while listening to Sam, Peter, who is in a passive state of listening, coughed or threw his head back and laughed or he leaned back in his chair and smiled. And it feels like we are including Peter into the conversation, giving him something to do that creates a visual idea for the reader to latch onto.
We are only describing a mannerism or gesture, but does it have any function relative to the real character?
Does it have anything to do with moving the story along or bolstering a scene to make it more interesting?
If we get into the bad habit of having our characters light cigarettes and fiddle with a pen while they should be doing something we are in danger of missing out on expressing the wonderfully rounded character that we have created with so much care. Our character, being rounded and full, should be in the position to show emotions and ideas that are more relevant to any scene that we put them in. If the scene requires that a character just sit a listen and twiddle a pencil or blow smoke into the talking character’s face, then surely something is wrong.
Objectives and Reasons of Gesture
The objective of actions and gestures in a scene is that we want to express the characters deeper traits of personality. To reveal something stronger, something with a dimension to it that will really show what type of person he or she is.
We don’t want to write a story about a fantastic hero who seems to suffer from apathy at times or who allows other characters to blot out their personality. The story has to roll, all of the time ,and that means the main character needs to be active and truly responsive to the actions and words of other characters.
The main purpose behind any character action is to express the deeper and more hidden sides of a character. Points that cannot be spoken but would only be expressed through actions.
A character who is strong minded and determined would seem weak if he actually expressed these emotions in words.
“I’m a determined person – so get out of my way!”
It seems better when we find a way to express these feelings of being determined and tough or being weak and passive through gestures and actions that can contribute a lot to a scene when they are revealing.
Give it Meaning and Push your Story along
We should never write actions and gestures just for the sake of it. Give them some weight by thinking deeply about your character and finding something that means something to the reader.
These actions and gestures are expressions of thoughts. The character who thinks is thinking about how to reach his goal, most of the time, and therefore his gestures and small actions that seem like fillers at times, should be actual representations of his thought processes that will help him or her achieve their desired end.
Remembering that a scene is a small piece of the story but it is also similar in construction to the whole story. It has a beginning a middle and an end. Each scene has a goal and if your character is on the way to achieving that goal then they need to be focused on that end.
Description vs Dialogue
Description can be revealing. The surroundings of a character can tell your reader many things about how your character lives, what type of neighbourhood he lives in will tell us something about his choices regarding things like comfort and the people he likes to have around him everyday . His or her neighbours are a part of his daily life and therefore reflect his feelings. He might leave home in the morning and chat with a neighbour for five minutes before moving on but avoid Mrs Smith at the corner, she wants to talk, your character thinks she is an idiot who only gossips so he avoids her like the plague. That tells us something about the character’s mind and something about the neighbourhood.