I’m not a political person. Frankly, I’m a bit of a peace, love, groovy type of girl. I own two yoga mats, incense and a host of vegetarian cookbooks. And I’ll just come right out and admit that I meditate, although not as effectively as I’d like to. Just saying, I’m no rabble rouser.
So if, dear reader, you are hoping for a juicy skewering of Rob Ford, prepare to be disappointed. This is not that kind of post.
This notwithstanding, I was intrigued by two video interviews that ran this weekend: The Globe and Mail s What We Can Learn From Rob Ford’s Body Language and Global News Toronto’s Rob Ford’s Body Language Uncoded. A big yellow light bulb above my head turned on.
Body Language and “Show-Don’t-Tell”
The business of journalism is to tell us everything. Nothing is left to the reader’s imagination. Fiction writers take a different approach — “show-don’t-tell“. One of the earliest lessons a serious writer learns, is that the story is more engaging when we infer inner thoughts and feelings by assigning the corresponding body language.
I was struck by the juxtaposition of these news stories and what we do as fiction writers. The journalists were on the outside looking in. They reported on the real life events, then their experts analyzed Ford’s body language. They scrutinized his gestures, posture, facial expressions, and eye movements to deduce mayor’s inner thoughts and feelings.
As fiction writers, we begin with the imagined character’s inner thoughts and feelings. We assign body language that infers those thoughts and feelings, then we stitch everything together into a story. Fiction writers are on the inside looking out, planting subtleties that the reader can use to independently construct their own interpretation of the character.