Saturday, February 7, 2015

Body Language in TermiteWriter's Books

       I'm still having the same reaction to the chemo (see my last two blog posts), but I decided to forget about it for now and write on a more entertaining topic.
       I just read this article about the use of body language in fiction. and it has prompted me to write a post about how I use body language in my writing.  I'll give examples.

From v.1: The Speaking of the Dead
Chapter 8 (using body language to change another's opinion of a character):
       “You impressed Prf. Jerardo at the Yakuta symposium.  He says you debate with a real instinct for the kill.”
       Kaitrin looked at Jerardo in surprise; he was grinning and rocking on his heels.  So he really had noticed that she had trounced him!  Maybe she had been selling him short.

Chapter 7 (Kaitrin observes the enigmatic but disturbingly attractive Griffen Gwidian in a social setting for the first time.  We learn a lot about Griffen's reputation for womanizing from how he and the other woman interact, and we learn something about Kaitrin from how she reacts.)
       Kaitrin stared at the distant table.  Gwidian was not alone; his companion was someone Kaitrin had seen in the XA Database Lab – an exotic-looking, dusky-skinned woman with hair dressed in the currently trendy lion’s-mane style, frizzed out in points tipped with colors, in this case a mix of silver and blue.
       “What is the matter?  Your mouth is open.”
       Kaitrin closed it.  “He’s with somebody.  How did he get to know that person so quickly?  He’s been over here to anthro only a couple of times.”
       “I have to look – just a peek …  Oh, I know that woman!  Her name is Meka – do not know the second name.  And they think I am strange-looking.  But she, too, has a reputation.”
       Kaitrin was having trouble taking her eyes off the pair.  Gwidian was laughing, leaning intimately toward his companion, who bent closer in response.  She knuckled him playfully on the forearm, inclining her head sideways.  He raised his right hand, slipped it around the back of the woman’s neck in a seemingly practiced gesture and ran his fingers up into her hair.  Her head bent a little farther forward with the pressure.
       Then Gwidian’s glance shifted and he saw Kaitrin looking at him.  For a moment their gazes cleaved together as if no one else were present in the crowded dining room.  Then his hand dropped back to rest on the table, his glance slid away, and Kaitrin lowered her own eyes in confusion.
       “What now?” asked Luku.  “You have that where the blood goes to the face.”
       “He saw me looking.  He has the most intense eyes.  Damn.  Let’s finish up here and get back to the lab.”

Chapter 11 (The first spontaneous "date" between Kaitrin and Griffen is going swimmingly, until one of his old flames shows up.  Another example of how to suggest character through body language and how to merge into suggestive or sarcastic dialogue.  This and the previous example also show how you can use clothing to delineate character.) 
       “Griff!  Imagine running into you over here!”
       Gwidian’s face gathered into a frown.  Kaitrin looked up to see a dark-haired woman standing at his elbow, glancing between them.  She was clad in a low-cut yellow leotard and black mesh tights.
       “Margit,” said Gwidian, looking sideways at her.  “It’s been a while.”
       “It certainly has.  Have you lost my relay code, Griff?”
       Kaitrin sat frozen, staring at this interloper with the amused black eyes and suggestive smile. 
       “I’ve been off-world,” Gwidian said.  His voice was tight.  “Asc. Oliva, this is Margit Terrie.  Margit, Asc. Kaitrin Oliva, a colleague in my latest project.”
       Margit cocked her head at Kaitrin, swaying her hips slightly.  “A colleague!  How special!  Too bad you can’t use a dance instructor in your projects, Griff!  Your latest one requires a visit to the Arts campus, does it?”
       “Asc. Oliva and I were about to view the faculty art show.”
       “I didn’t know you were so interested in art,” said Margit.  “You never told me that, Griff.”  She gave him no time to answer.  “Message me some time.  I never went away.”
       “If I can,” replied Gwidian coldly.  “I’m going off-world again.”
       “Again?  Too bad!  And, Asc. Oliva, you’ll be going off-world with him?”
       Kaitrin was never sure afterward how she had replied.
       “Well, I’m so happy I ran into you, Griff.  Asc. Oliva, nice to meet you.  Good luck on your expedition!  See you later?”  With a little flurry of hip and shoulder, she was gone.
       There was a glacial silence.  All the rapport, all the warmth, had departed with Margit Terrie.
     Then Gwidian muttered something unintelligible and pushed back his plate.  “Perhaps I should be returning to my office.  I seem to recall a matter that requires attention.”
       “What?  And miss out on nurturing this unprecedented interest in art?” said Kaitrin acidly. 
       He puffed his cheeks, gestured impatiently, and stood up.  “You’ll enjoy the exhibit a good deal more without me, I’m sure.  I’ll possibly see you before the committee meeting."
       Not if I can help it, went through Kaitrin’s mind.  How could I possibly have let down my guard this way with this – this promiscuous stud?
       Gwidian had turned back.  His expression of distress appeared genuine.  “Kaitrin, I feel I owe you an explanation … ”
       Kaitrin was not buying it.  “What for?  Your recreational activities are of no concern to me.  And my name is Asc. Oliva.”
       Gwidian hesitated, then threw up his hands and walked away swiftly toward the door.

       I'm discovering that hardly a chapter goes by without using body language in my writing, and so I think I'll just stop there.  Doesn't every writer use body language?  Anybody who doesn't had better figure it out.

A good example of
body language at the
moment Ki'shto'ba and
Kwi'ga'ga'tei receive
the Speaking of the Dead.
       But do my termites use body language?  For sure!  The eyed Alates use visual cues to emphasize what they are saying and even the blind Warriors and Workers use postures (for example, threat postures) because rearing up causes pheromones to come from a different location.  Here are some more examples of termite body language.

From The Termite Queen, v.2: The Wound That Has No Healing
 Chapter 21 (Kaitrin is engaged in telling the Queen A'kha'ma'na'ta and her "court" the tale of Ulysses and the Cyclops)
       “The Zin’tei woke up and commenced making such a commotion that it could be sensed all the way through the stone over the door.  Friends who lived in other caves nearby came running to see what was happening.  They asked him, ‘What is the matter in there?  Is somebody harming you?  Who is it?’
       “But, of course, here is what the Zin’tei answered:  ‘It is Nobody’s work that is doing this to me!  Nobody is doing me harm!’”
       As this sank in, Kaitrin experienced a very strange phenomenon.  The Shshi commenced to bounce themselves up and down with little springs of their forelegs, spinning their antennae in wild circles so that any words they were transmitting were broadcast unintelligibly in all directions.  They swung their heads in U-shaped motions.  Even Kwi’ga’ga’tei participated in this exercise, and the Commander Hi’ta’fu was somewhat ponderously caught up.  Mo’gri’ta’tu, however, only gave a couple of tiny hops and held his antennae motionless.
       Clever! said Di’fa’kro’mi.  Most entertaining!
       ‘Nobody’ did it to me – That is quite humorous! said Ki’shto’ba, using a word Kaitrin had never encountered before, but whose meaning seemed clear from the context.
       It was a revelation.  This must be how they laugh!  The Shshi have a sense of humor!  I never would have thought it!  What a gift to discover this!

From The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head. 
Vol. 1: The War of the Stolen Mother, Chapter 1 (Di'fa'kro'mi is droning on about how he invented writing in an image language and his scribe Chi'mo'a'tu gets bored.  Handling body language in a first-person narrative is a little different, because it has to be completely relevant to what the narrator is thinking and feeling.)
       What?  Why are you stamping about and flaring your wings?  I am well aware that you know all this already!  I suppose I am boring you!  But I am not finished analyzing my thought processes.  A Remembrancer should always finish what he has begun to tell – that is a cardinal rule!  That is the trouble these days – you young ones are in too much of a hurry, impatient to be finished.  You have never learned how to pay attention, and words do not have the fascination for you that they should.
Please do not display such indignation, Chi’mo’a’tu – I am well aware that you know how to pay attention.  Would I have chosen you as my principal scribe for this undertaking if I had thought you could not pay attention?

Vol. 4: Beneath the Mountain of Heavy Fear, Chapter 18 (The Companions are visiting the southern fortress of Ra'ki'wiv'u and the fortress's Remembrancer is telling the tale of the Great Bird Hunt [think of The Hunt for the Calydonian Boar]):
Huffing, we all relaxed back into our seating places.  It was a rousing tale and Fi’frum’zei’s animated delivery had enhanced the excitement.  She had hopped around the room, flapping her antennae so wildly that at times her words became unintelligible.  When someone in the tale hurled a spear, she hurled a mock one, and when Thel’tav’a shot her dart, she mimicked that motion.  When Ist’u’mim’zei fell into the hole, she pretended to trip over her own feet and thrashed around on the floor.  A mandible-slash demanded a vigorous shaking of the head.  I had never seen a tale told in quite that fashion – physically imitating the action.  It was quite effective but not very dignified!  I wondered if all the Remembrancers in these parts told tales that way, or if it was an effect of the trol’zhuf’zi| [a fermented leaf]!  If the former were true, I doubted my static delivery style would provide any chance of winning a prize at the upcoming competition.

       I hope some of you will have found these examples enjoyable.  If you want to read more, check out the covers in the sidebar or  go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.  I'm still trying to get somebody to buy a book at Smashwords.  I only need 10 cents to qualify for a royalty payment.

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