A Small Gesture Changes Everything

As I passed a side road today, I glimpsed a woman sitting on the sidewalk, legs splayed out. A group of ladies stood in a close circle in front of her.

Just exercising, I thought. After all, they were near a gym and they all had shorts on.

But then something happened, something small happened that caused me to see the scene a different way: One of the ladies leaned down and put her hand on the woman's shoulder. Though I was half a block away, the compassion in that gesture was clear.

Among other things, it made me think how powerful a single gesture can be in our writing. In the scene above, a little gesture transformed friends exercising together into women concerned for a hurt friend. I was amazed when I thought about the impact of that one small movement.

We probably all use this concept instinctively in our writing, but seeing it in action and recognizing it enables us to use it deliberately and with precision. We can build a scene and then with one swift movement, lade it with meaning.

8 comments:

Mary Witzl said...

You are right: a small gesture like this can have huge implications in a scene. I'm always fascinated by what distinguishes sad from happy, angry from passionate. The gestures and expressions people use can almost fool you unless you look carefully.

Brenda said...

Body language speaks louder then words sometimes...

your words can stay at one level, no feelings of any kind heard in them...

Body language can't be hidden very well...

No matter what language you speak, everyone understands a hug...

courtney said...

Yes, yes, yes. I love this entry. When I write I am hyper aware of gestures, which are so much bigger than words sometimes.

Charles Gramlich said...

Great point. I saw cormac McCarthy do this a lot in "All the pretty horses," which I loved.

Travis Erwin said...

Great example.

Linda D. (sbk) said...

So. Very. True.

Sheri said...

Ah... the writer's brain never rests, right Danette.

It is true how impactful a gesture or prop can be in life and in writing.

I read an article in THE WRITER magazine that gave this line as an example.

"I love you," he said.
"How nice," she said.

But then he added gestures and props.

"I love you," he said.
She lit her cigarette and blew smoke in his face. "How nice," she breathed.

"I love you," he said.
"How nice," she said flipping her cell phone open and taking the call.

Both of these gestures and props change the context of the language dramatically. So neat that you saw it in real life!

ChristineEldin said...

I am fascinated with gestures. I look for them when I'm out.
I love your example.