Body language is the nonverbal expression of emotion and thought—a form of communicating arguably more effective than the system made up of words. Words are adequate for the less complex task of conveying information, but body language and tone do the heavy lifting.
By some estimates only 7 percent of all communication is verbal. Our ability to read body language is embedded in our DNA. Our ancestors survived by understanding body language. We interpret it intuitively and instantaneously.
The skillful depiction of body language should be considered an essential aspect of literary art. It can tell us so much more about a character than language can.
We can see inside a character, we can understand how that character feels by observing, for example, the way she walks. Does she slouch or point her chin upward? And exactly how is that done? With a high and mighty attitude or does the gesture reveal a hint of vulnerability? We can understand a person’s true intentions by reading body language. Is he making eye contact, does one eye twitch when he speaks, is he leaning in or stepping back?
The language of the body is contained in every part of it: the hands, shoulders, hips, legs, feet, spine, and in every feature of the face. What is it about the gesture that telegraphs a certain feeling? Does your character’s expression of shyness and longing reside in the tilt of the head or is it in the pigeon toed, slightly knock kneed stance? Or is it a combination of both?