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Paula Wynne

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Character Reactions from Head to Toe

Your characters should not be 'talking heads', in other words fictional characters that just nod and sigh. If they are, you will not engage your readers in the character's fictional life. They need to be doing things that real people do.

This is where Character Reactions from Head to Toe by Valerie Howard comes in. Valerie has listed out 1000 reactions, emotions and motions that you can use when writing your fictional characters.

Instead of a boring fictional character you will come out with a real-life person that does all the things we humans do naturally.

This writing guide will help you to vary your fictional character reactions and change the body part your character reacts with. Though your character could always react to new information or an external stimulant with their eyes, it's not recommended to write an entire story that way. Your character has more than just eyes, so they should do more than stare, glare, wink, and blink. Do a quick find in your manuscript and you will be amazed at how many times your character may stare or glare or gaze. Replace those with any of the suggestions made in Valerie's body part lists.

And it's easy to jump straight to the body parts because this writing guide is divided up by body part, starting with the head, going down to the toes, then looking internally at what can happen with a character's veins, muscles, and bones when they react to an external stimulant. That really is getting down to internal detail!

Character Reactions from Head to Toe is not a guide to character emotions, as in Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi's Emotion Thesaurus, instead it gives some emotion tags or suggestions here and there based on the moving parts of your fictional character's body.

Why not list the book according to emotions? Simply that a fictional character can bite their lip in rage, irritation, impatience, or in a playfully flirtatious manner. So Valerie has listed the 'action' or 'reaction' of the character's body by the body part so you can easily jump to 'lips' to find the different ways your character can use their lips.

In a similar way, your fictional character can slouch because of fear, disappointment, shame or fatigue. So Valerie leaves it up to you as the writer of that character to portray their bodily reaction according to their emotional state.

With so many body parts, the ways your fictional characters can react are endless.

Although, I think it would be handy to have an emotional reference for each body part but I can see that would be a huge task and almost endless because almost every body part could have an emotional reference.

Mix and match the reactions to create almost endless possibilities. Your character can yank on her pigtail and groan to show her immense frustration. Your character can stick out his tongue and cross his eyes to show he doesn't have a care in the world. Beware of stringing too many reactions together in a row, though. Three or more will sound more like a grocery list than a reasonable reaction.

Valerie suggests that if you're having trouble thinking about what your character would do to react, you can always physically act out the scene and see what your body does and take notes.

Valerie also gives you a free PDF checklist download, so you can make a tally mark next to each body part you write for that particular fictional character. This helps you to see where you have over-used a certain body reaction so you can fix it and make your fictional character more realistic. You can use this writing guide during the writing stage when you are creating your fictional characters and writing their story, or you can use the guide when you are in revision stage and refining the plot and deepening your characters.

Here is an example:

FOREHEAD
Forehead wrinkling
Forehead slicking with sweat
Slapping or hitting forehead with palm
Banging forehead against a surface
Wiping moisture off forehead
Pressing fingers against forehead
Tapping forehead with pencil or finger
Forehead baking with a fever
Resting forehead in hand(s)
Splaying back of hand on forehead as if faint
Poking forehead with thumb to jog memory
Banging forehead with fists to stop crazy thoughts

Jam-packed with a list of 1,000 physical reactions a character can have, organized by body part from head to toe to internal organs, you'll never be left scratching your head when you need to find just the right way to describe your character's reactions!

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