A Spin on Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication – by Christine Lindsay
I am excited to host author Christine Lindsay today as she explains how we can incorporate verbal and non-verbal communication into our writing more effectively.
So much of what people convey is non-verbal. As to the ratios of how much verbal versus non-verbal exchange we use daily is still up for discussion among the scientists. As writers we can leave the percentages to the lab rats to hash out.
But as writers, we know that we must show what our characters are really saying, and find ways other than dialogue to deliver that.
I took that idea and gave it an extra spin for the basis for my contemporary romance Londonderry Dreaming. Both the hero and the heroine are emotionally incapable of speech, although they both do exceptionally well in their professional life. It’s not that my characters can’t speak, but that this highly intelligent couple have trouble expressing what they really want to say, especially to each other.
They are both successful in other art forms that they have craftily used not only to make a living but to express their feelings.
I gave the heroine the exceptional talent as a painter who specializes in portraits of children. Naomi not only owns a gallery on 57th St. New York, but her commissioned paintings hang in embassies, schools, and hospitals around the world. Through the silent communication of her paintings she is able to show her longings for her life and love, through line and the pigments of paint.
I love my hero especially because I took aspects of my son’s talent and put it into my character Keith is a music therapist. He uses his talent to help children especially who have been emotionally traumatizes and can only tell that through banging a drum or some other musical instrument.
It was fun to not only search out ways to show their emotions in non-verbal ways, but to have that extra challenge in their romantic upheavals.
Here is a short snippet of how the non-verbal communication of music plays into the storyline:
A small selection of gift-quality musical instruments filled the shop corner—a traditional Irish drum, the bodhrán, a few flutes, penny whistles, shakers. Normally Keith would have been here in this corner, perusing what items he could find for the practice back home and his patients, but today he was more interested in Naomi’s fascination. He edged closer to her as she picked up a small bodhrán and its short wooden tipper.
She slid her hand in at the back of the drum to grasp the crossbars under the goatskin. At first she moved the tipper like a pencil, tapping, growing more confident with each beat. Her eyes met his as she adjusted the pitch so that the beat was like that of a heart. What was she saying?
He tilted his head to listen. Like in his clients, he recognized the subconscious expression of inexpressible thoughts through rhythm.
And here is another short snippet showing Naomi’s talent as a painter:
And a huge weight floated off Naomi. Speaking her mind hadn’t been as tough as she’d thought it would be.
She studied her canvas Children of Northern Light. The painting was slow to show progress, though she’d started work on this painting the day after she’d got home. It wasn’t even starting to emerge from the pointillism style she’d perfected. With each layer of paint on the canvas she couldn’t keep the image of the children of the Chilean Dance Festival out of her mind. Their vibrant costumes kept clashing in her thoughts as she tried to paint the native furs of the Inupiat children of northern Alaska.
The Chilean Dance Festival and Children of the Tsunami—if Keith didn’t care, why had he purchased not one, but two of her paintings? They were expensive, and music therapists didn’t make that much money. He must have really scrimped and saved to buy them. Didn’t that say something? Something big?
It’s always a challenge to show emotion in our writing, but it is no different from the challenges that other types of artists face—painters, musicians, are also looking for ways to convey those deep levels of our humanity in non-verbal ways.
Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and explosive finale Veiled at Midnight. Christine’s Irish wit and her use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary romance Londonderry Dreaming and her newest release Sofi’s Bridge.