I was reading Jordan McCollum's blog post about the overuse of gesture crutches (you can read it here) and I decided to see if I was guilty of this myself. Do I use a lot of sighing, shrugging, and nodding for my character gestures?
Shockingly, I do.
So I've been going through my manuscript (using the Find function) and deleting all the shrugging and nodding and whatnot and using more vivid gestures that can give my characters and story more dimension. It's been a lot harder than I thought, but the more I've practiced and thought of other gestures, the more I've gotten to know my characters and what makes them unique. For example, my main character cracks her thumb knuckles when she's nervous. I never thought of that before now. And I was so glad that Jordan had so many other great suggestions on her blog on how to fix this problem.
Another thing this exercise has forced me to do is to really look at body language and the tells that humans have in saying what they really feel without saying a word. I've been people-watching so closely that I'm sure some shoppers at my grocery store thought I was a stalker or something. (She's rubbing her chin to show she's really thinking about her purchase. Wait, is she itching it or rubbing it? Oh, hello. No, you don't know me. I'm an author, though. Never mind. *Julie walks away quickly*)
I have to say that I'm really excited about how this small thing has changed my writing and given me a fresh perspective on my characters and my story. Just one little change took things in a whole new direction, making me dig deeper as an author.
Are you a gesture crutch user?
Go get your writing right now and see. Then come back and confess in the comments.