Characterization: Whispering men?

My husband is hard of hearing. (No. Really.) He has moderate loss in one ear and severe in the other. What that has taught me is that sometimes a person simply cannot hear the whispers. Seems like a simple concept.

Why is it that we rarely see enough body action in our writing to convey what is being said? I understand that studies have been done. 93% percent of communication is body language, and tone. 7% is based on the words themselves.

So, when writing, remember to give the small physical actions that convey emotion. Remember to make your stories believable. If the guy is ninety, or forty but has worked with heavy equipment his whole life, he probably is gonna have some hearing loss. If you can hear the tv outside the house as you walk up, there’s a good heads up to the reader that the person inside is going deaf.

Why is this so important? It speaks to writing believable characters and making interactions plausible.

Picture this, me whispering sweet things to my husband in bed, and him catching the wind in his ear, but not the words, then turning on me with a loud, “WHAT?”

There goes MY mood. I raise my voice, “I was whispering sweet nothings in your ear!”

“What did you say?”

“Oh. Nothing!”

Or how about this scene?

We’re sitting in the living room. I say something. He gets grumpy. I can see it in his body language and the set of his jaw.

So, I raise my voice and ask, “What did you think I said?”

Turns out, he heard something completely different from what I said, or intended, and took offense. This happens all the time. Now, if he gets angry or hurt, I have to ask that question.

A lot of people misperceive communication. We watch people from across a parking lot and think we know what their mood is by their body language.

When we want to take offense, we let body physical actions tick us off.

Once, my third daughter, who was a finger sucker, climbed off the school bus, her fingers going into her mouth the minute she was off. She turned back to look at the bus driver, who was being mean that day, and yelling at the other kids.

Now, she was a quiet little girl, who would never flip anyone off. But the next day, she had a bus disciplinary referral for doing that to the driver.

We, of course, questioned her about it, and she cried because it broke her heart that anyone would think she would be so rude. (Just not a gesture we do at our house.)

So, we went to the school and had a meeting with the bus driver and school superintendent. As it turns out, the driver had been up to her neck in bad kids. It had hurt HER feelings that Miranda had done that to her.

But Miranda hadn’t flipped her off. She’d simply put her fingers in her mouth, a nervous habit she always had when anyone yelled at someone near her.

We misinterpret many actions like that. We take offense regularly.
In that situation, my husband and I went in looking for a fight. That bus driver was way out of line on a daily basis. Our kids weren’t the ones that got her wrath. So, this was our first reason to address this issue personally.

We took the opportunity to lay out every misdeed the bus driver had committed that OUR FIVE children had witnessed, and said that we didn’t take kindly to her accusing our daughter of something she simply wouldn’t do. Especially when the bus driver deserved that and more.

Which brings me to the relationships of your characters. We all have people who love us, and would defend us, or people who couldn’t care less what happened to us. All that speaks to our character development. Think about your characters like real people. You don’t have to tell their whole backstory, but if you think through it yourself, you’ll end up portraying people that readers can identify with because the characters have depth.


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