How many times has someone rammed the phrase “Show, don’t tell” down your throat without actually offering you any help as to how you could do that?
It must have happened to me about eight. million. times. Literally.
Ok so not literally… but the point stands.
Showing, rather than telling, is quite easy in first person; all you have to do is relay information and facts e.g
Rather than saying
"I was ill. I felt so sick."
"My head was thumping and, as I tried to concentrate on the lecture, a bead of cold sweat worked its way down my back. I suppressed a cough, cracking my dry, itchy throat painfully."
However in third person it can be more difficult, mainly because the reader has no direct access to the characters thoughts and innermost feelings. It can be done, though.
Body language is very important to this and can really help to make a point well. In the most basic sense it gives your character life as, honestly, no one stays still as a mannequin through a whole conversation. Or, if they do, its a suspicious way of acting and should be noted. Of course it can also say alot more about your character than they’d like!
The example of Anxiety;
Anxiety, on a personal level (that is to say on the inside), causes feelings of sickness, nervousness, even fear in extreme cases but, while anxiety attacks are pretty obvious, the physical symptoms can be surprisingly subtle and complex.
The first this to remember is peoples ‘tells’ will show something about them too: a young, vain man might smooth his hair, check for dirt under his nails etc. A woman might repeatedly check her make-up, smooth her dress and apply lipgloss/stick while someone who’s seen violence and known ambushes (a soldier or police officer, for example) might take to scrutinizing those around them.
"The anxiety was crippling him."
"The air was oppressive and, as Hunters stomach churned, it pressed on him; crushing his shaking throat beneath the boot of reality. He was trapped. Trapped in here with all these staring goons…"
The example of a liar;
When someone is lying they will, if they’re smart, try their hardest to act normally though the result will, usually, appear contrived. Unless they have no moral compass or are trained to lie with skill (or have a lot of practice).
" ‘Of course I love you.’ She lied smoothly."
"She blinked quickly, eyes darting from his face to her hands,
'Of course I love you, Don….” She smiled and laughed, a high, panicked sound, 'How could you doubt me?'”
The example of sexual arousal;
Hard nipples or tingling nether regions are not body language. Keep in mind that, ideally, your reader should know nothing, or little, more than what characters do. When people are aroused their pupils dilate, their heart rate and body heat rises: this is universal but the way they display this changes from person to person. Some may lean forward, lick their lips, touch their neck or hair, push their chest out (women), splay their legs (men) but it all says something!
"Gary wanted him so badly; Rob was perfect. Sexy as hell and confident too."
"Gary swallowed and let his eyes flicked quickly over Robs lips and face; he was gorgeous but it was more than that. He leaned in and smiled as he recited a story about a childhood dog; it was the way he spoke and smiled. Gary rubbed his lips and squirmed in his seat a little; it was the way he flexed his hands and bit his lips.”
Obviously such examples are not comprehensive but they give an idea of how to move forward. Perhaps a useful thing to do, as a starting point, is to ask
'what do I do when I feel like this/do this?'
Then build upon your findings from there. Alternatively you can study those closest to you; watch what they do with their limbs and face when they say certain things.
Hey! Sorry for the late reply, I haven’t really had time to do the tutorial for you! But, I did one today. It’s kinda messy and not 100% anatomically perfect (I do several flaws myself) but I think I made some good points!
Arms cannot be done without shoulders, so that’s why I will include them here. To know how one body part works, you need to understand the other parts too. I suggest drawing a stick figure, as shown above. Do it with shoulders and everything - don’t care about anatomy. Really, don’t - go mad! You can figure out how to deal with the anatomy AFTER you have figured how to draw the body freely.
I imagine most body parts to be shaped as tear drops, as shown above; especially the arms and legs. Draw them above the stick figure - don’t be afraid to overlap the teardrops. In fact, I suggest it! The best way to understand anatomy is to think of it as shapes and doll-parts.
After you’ve figured that out, do several, VERY tiny, small doodles like these. Go crazy - don’t bother with anatomy just yet. Do them also very quickly and so small you can’t think of the details. Just keep doing this until you sorta understand how arms work.
Here is a doodle of a “real” arm, and as you can see, how it’s shaped it resembles the teardrops above. A general rule is to constantly draw the body in curves - male AND female. NEVER draw a single line straight.
I mentioned before I thought it was important to include shoulders/other body parts to understand another. This is why. The body basically has a “flow” when you move. The red lines clearly shows the flow. This is also how you can create a dynamic pose: think of the flow. The muscles are formed that way to be able to function. Which reminds me, buy some good anatomy books. And I’m talking about more or less MEDICAL anatomy books - you think you won’t need it - but trust me, it’s more useful than you can imagine. I do NOT suggest buying “stylistic” anatomy books, like Christopher Hart (ugh NO), for example, as these can mislead you. Medical anatomy books CANNOT because they MUST be right.
And for the last part, here’s some “do’s” and “don’ts”. It’s important to remember the muscles between the neck and shoulders. Many, especially when drawing females, forget this. It’s true the most visible it is - the more muscular you will look. But even the most petite people have these. Your neck literally would not function if you didn’t have these supporters. Then, the arms below is just to show why it’s important to draw the body with curves. Many have probably heard “straight lines for males” which is a complete lie. They will look stiff and unnatural. Curves can both empathize muscles AND fat. Heck, even your bones aren’t straight.
Legs certainly are the hardest. There’s a good reason for this; because they’re one of our most strongest muscles, and they are more or less dominating when it comes to poses (together with the spine). However, just like with the arms, draw a stick figure. I won’t suggest drawing them completely straight, as you can see here, as it will add weight. Do teardrops shapes. As for the hips - think of them as panties or briefs. This is not a MUST; but it will help; I think!
And just like the arms, do small doodles. Don’t be serious, play around until you get the idea.
As you can see, these legs easily can be turned into teardrops even when they’re detailed like this.
Now, what makes legs/hips interesting is that the way fat gathers there. Although not a must, seeing as we’re all different, females tend to get more fat there than men. Usually, however, it’s not at the SIDE of the hops, but at the thighs, calves and the “love handles”. (Excuse my english, aaah…) Women also tend to have bigger hips, but again, it’s not a must. It’s not uncommon to have small hips, either; or big hips for men, etc.
Of course, the legs too follow the “flow”!
Something worth noting is the “Standing point” The standing point is basically a straight line, and the further away you are from the line; the more unbalanced you are. To create a dynamic pose you should avoid that line as much as possible. However, if you want to look balanced/realistic, have the one leg stand there for support. The leg to the left is balanced, as you can see one of the legs is taking all the weight; with other words, it’s the support leg-making it balanced. The legs to the right, however, are likely to fall over if she keeps standing like that!
Now for some more do’s and don’ts. I already mentioned the barbie legs, invisible heels and micro-mini crotch in my previous tutorial, but these two are different. I see this mistake a lot; when you sit down, your thighs will become wider because you’re pressing all the fat to the sides. Now, this also depends on how you’re positioning your legs. How much it widens depends on how much fat you have in the first place; but it will always be there.
And then there’s this awkward “thigh gap”. Before I get any haters telling me how I “thin shame”, please, take a seat and read this. Good? Good. How much space you actually have between your thighs depends fully on how you’re standing, bending, angle, body type and everything else. However, the one to the right? Not likely.
Okay, I’m getting really lazy now; so I’ll be quick. Draw a rectangle. Sorta like this; it doesn’t have to be exactly like this - since hands can be shaped VERY differently. Just compare to your friends.
Draw a little triangle attached to it.
Now, the fingers! How long they should be and etc doesn’t really matter either. But if you’re unsure, draw them as tear drops, too.
Now, draw the fingers! Starting to look like a hand, sort of.
Then draw the details and fix things you didn’t like. I really don’t like the way this is drawn but I’m just tired right now.
Just like the legs/arms, practice by doing that simple figure really quickly.
Guess what? Hands also follow “the flow”!
Okay, I’m getting really lazy. Plus, feet are SUPER HARD- I’m just going to say this: think of them as triangles. Overlap them; think of it as 3D!
Practice practice practice! And medical anatomy books. And photo references. And real-life references!
Hope this helped! \o/ As I said, I’m nowhere near perfect but, ahh, I tried.
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