Writing Tips and Tricks

The Importance of Non-verbals in Stories

93% of our emotional communication is through non-verbals.

“What in the world are non-verbals?” You ask.

Well, non-verbals are defined (by my textbook) as “communication other than written or spoken language that creates meaning for someone.”

So, instead of you simply asking what non-verbals are, you cock your head curiously, raise an eyebrow to show that you’re asking a question, and your voice raises at the end of your sentence, verifying that it is indeed a question.

Yes. That.

Why are they so important to add to stories?

Because 93% of our emotional communication is through non-verbals (also from my textbook). Folks, that’s more just a little, overlookable bit (the author wrote, leaning forward with sincerity and excitement).

Answer me this… which would you rather read? Which paints a better picture for you?

I could tell Carlos was confused. “What are you talking about?” He asked.


Carlos’ eyes narrowed in confusion, his brows crinkling together. “What are you talking about?” He asked, spreading his hands in question.

Imagine what he’s saying and the non-verbals you would use to describe how he’s feeling.

Non-verbals add more of a personality to the character, adds more flavor to the story, adds a little more to love. It’s just like spice and herbs in soup, or toppings on ice cream — doable without, perfect with.

So… non-verbals are essential. But how can they be used in writing? With words?

Well, about the same way you use descriptions. You can have a flavorless, simple description. (“She walked into her bedroom. It was dirty.”) or you can have a detailed, rich description (“She stumbled into her bedroom after a long day and nearly tripped over last night’s book. Her bed wasn’t made, homework was scattered on her desk, and her wrinkled PJs were in a heap beside her bookstand.”). If you aren’t used to using non-verbals (as I’m not), it’ll take active thought to use them. Once you train yourself, it will come naturally!

You do have to be careful, the same with descriptions, that you don’t use too much of them. Rich, detailed descriptions are great. Rich, detailed descriptions that take up half of the chapter– not great. The same with non-verbals. If you use so many non-verbals that it takes forever to get to the actual point… you might be using a bit too much. Experiment around… try different amounts and see what you like or don’t like. Not all situations call for non-verbals, but when you can add them, they add a huge booster to your story!

Do you use non-verbals in your stories? Tell me about it!


(My textbook: Communication: Principles for a Lifetime by Steven A. Beebe, Susan J. Beebe, and Diana K. Ivy. Fifth Edition. Published by Pearson Education Inc.)


2 thoughts on “The Importance of Non-verbals in Stories”

  1. She leaned her head in one hand, narrowing her eyes as they skimmed across the screen. An unfinished manuscript lay tucked in the backpack beneath her desk, heavy with dialogue untouched for months. This Jaylee really had a point.

    Liked by 1 person

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