The Meaning of Gestures

My guest blogger today is . . . me! I’ve been getting so many authors to host that I feel like a guest on my own blog. Inviting authors to guest might have started out as a generous gesture, but it turned out to be entirely self-indulgent. It’s like school: having a more advanced student do your homework and not getting in trouble for it.

Most gestures have meanings, and as writers, we need to know what that meaning is so we can have our characters use the gesture properly, either to work for or against the character. For example, open palms generally connote that the person or character has nothing to hide, but a liar can purposely show his palms in order to hide his lying nature. Animated hands show that the character is interested in the other person, or they say that the character is running a con, wanting you to think he’s interested. Psychopaths use expansive gestures, which disarm those they come in contact with, but as we know, psychopaths have no interest in anyone but themselves. Shoulder and head turned sideways means disinterest, but can also be a symptom of a crick in the neck.

Other common gestures and positions:

Clammy hands show nervousness.
Open hands show friendliness.
Hidden hands show guilt.
Biting the fingernails shows nervousness.
Gripping the arms of a chair can show nervousness or anger.
Fists show defensiveness or aggression depending on how they are used.
Hands to cheek show pensiveness.
Ankles locked mean withholding information.
Fingers in front of the face mean the character has something to hide.
Fingers drumming show nervousness or boredom.
Hands spread show openness.
Legs stretched out mean shame.
Sudden gestures connote threat.
Leaning forward shows interest.

One final note: Tapping feet show nervousness or lying, which could be why people in a position of power need big desks. They don’t want anyone to see those constantly moving feet.

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