I was surprised to learn today that Evan Marshall, a former agent who is now a writing coach, advises against using a lot of gesture in scenes.

Use Body Language Sparingly

New writers sprinkle their dialogue with a lot of gestures and mannerisms. Characters smile, grin, frown, shake their heads…

Most of the time the readers don’t really care, unless the gesture or mannerism is important for conveying meaning. Keep body language to a minimum in your dialogue. Many aren’t necessary because the words have already delivered the message.

Marshall, whose Marshall Plan for Novel Writing has a companion workbook, says that sometimes a gesture is useful to show us a pause.

“I couldn’t leave Belinda. not after all she’s done for me — medical school, raising our kids.” Frank looked down at his cigarette, studied it a moment, then gave Susan a frank look. “I love you more than anything in the world, but I can’t marry you.”

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