There’s this sixteen-month-old baby, Ezra Brown (nickname Easy B), whose facial features are a wealth of expression. High, wide forehead, expressive eyes, mouth that becomes the Grand Canyon upon a smile, every muscle in his face and form are methods of communication. He speaks, well, actually he jabbers in some Klingon dialect no human can understand.
So what I thought was this: Why can’t we adult humans communicate so well? Easy B interacts with his mother through sign language -- “please,” the rounding circle on his tummy and “all done,” the waving of two tiny hands above his head. However, when he wants to nurse, his little face becomes very still; he uses one hand to simulate the milking of a cow (okay, DO NOT ask) and holds the posture until his mother acknowledges what he wants.
He's dead serious about this.
Then, when she bares her breast, he gives this little ah-ha of relief at being understood and given his most elemental need.
Communication. Men and women have been doing this awkward dance for centuries. And it’s darned strange that I can read every nuance of Ezra’s face and body as if his words were emblazoned on a marquee, but have difficulty conveying the same language among my characters.
When I want to cow a particularly unruly tenth-grader in my high school English class, a lifting of both brows and a stoic stare are sufficient to quell the ensuing rebellion. Why is it so much harder to use body and facial language for our characters without reverting to stereotype and caricature? I mean, come on, there are only so many brow lifts, steely stares, and mouth quirks the story can handle. And in real life, our handsome Alpha males express very little with their faces; more, perhaps with their bodies; and oh yeah, a whole lot with . . . well, ‘nuff said there.
So my question to both readers and writers is: what’s your favorite character’s (male or female) non-verbal expression or use of body communication? NON-VERBAL, ladies and gents, to eliminate the classic, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” followed by an equally classic thunderbolt from the gods.
Or what form of communication do you like to use as a writer?