Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Squint, Blink and Wink

There’s a reason our main characters are obsessed with looking, gazing, glancing, staring, gaping or glimpsing. When you are dealing with the body language of love, eye contact is the first step in the ritual of finding a mate. It all starts with a look. You catch someone’s eye; maybe you indulge in a little preening, follow that up with a smidge of flirting and, if the stars and planets are aligned, there is body contact.

Ninety percent of communication is non-verbal. It’s all about body language. It telegraphs intent, a little lean forward and you’re showing interest and liking. The distance between two people is an indication of how comfortable they are with one another. The person across from you may be saying all the right words but it’s what their body language is saying that’s important. For instance, if the body of the guy sitting across from you is squared with your own, if it’s facing yours, then likely his interest is genuine. His heart and his brain are engaged, not just his libido.

Again with the eye contact. We communicate with our eyes. It’s how we know someone is engaged. It’s that sensual stare that slowly scans the entire length of a body with pauses in all the right places. A slight squinting of the eyes or a knowing look accompanied by a miniscule lift of the chin means you’re on his radar. Women, in turn, might widen their eyes a tiny bit to show they’re interested or open to some conversation.

Believe it or not feet play a role in body language. If his feet are pointing in your direction when he is standing it’s a good indication his is genuinely interested. The same applies to sitting with legs crossed, if his leg is toward you, he’s sincere. If, however, his legs are gapping open or his feet are pointed away, it’s time to decide if a one-night stand is all you’re looking for.

On to verbal communication. If it accounts for only ten percent of our interactions, I guess it’s more about how we talk. The more you are enjoying the conversation the longer you will draw it out. You don’t really want to let this person go. The distance between you will have lessened, you’ll be leaning into each other and making lots of eye contact.

But how does he know when the woman sitting across from him is open to a little body contact? A kiss? We make great use of those lips to show we’re interested. There may be a hint of a smile, some touching or playing with our lips, licking of our lips or biting of the lips. The lips are a giveaway, but you could also start toying with your food, pick up a spoon, twirl a straw, or play with your fingers. We tend to use nodding as a means of encouraging the other person. Also upturned palms show openness and honesty and are an invitation to caress. But since kissing is all about timing, you wait. You watch for that tilt of the head, that slight dip closer. You want the emotional click if you’re searching for something meaningful.

You want to know if there will be chemistry between you. Is he going to make you feel weak in the knees? Are you going to make his palms sweat or his heart race? Whose pupils will dilate first, whose blood pressure will shoot through the roof? Your pheromones have been released. Those colourless, ordourless chemical signals that send an airborne message to the opposite sex engaging the pleasure center of the brain.

It’s not all about looks and money, for women chemistry is about the total package. We love a killer smile, plenty of eye contact, the ability to really listen, and compliments of the sincere variety. We go for confident, relaxed and clean. We’d put a lot on the line for that all-important sense of humor. And we condone alpha male behaviour only because it implies you’re a natural leader. Caution and warning - since we are in possession of fully opposable thumbs, we are not governed by the rules of the animal kingdom.

Apparently, men’s needs are a lot less complicated. Their list of what’s desirable is considerably shorter but that’s a topic for another post.

And guys, please, please, no tired, old pick lines. Women hate that. No -- Are you from Tennessee? Because you’re the only ten I see! No -- Can I have fries with that shake? If that’s all you got, go home and pick up a self-help book on the way there.

What’s this got to do with writing romance? Only that we’ve touched on the problem of too much ‘eye gazing’ in our manuscripts. There is, however, a reason for it. It’s a huge non-verbal communication tool and can’t be avoided. But there are other ways to telegraph attraction and intent. We just have to be creative!

So what’s the number one thing that does it for you? Is it a sense of humor? Do you want a romantic? Someone who actually appears to be listening? Heard any really bad pick up lines? Have you used any in your writing? What’s your current hero’s favorite little touch? Chase loves to tuck stray strands of Lily’s hair behind her ear.


Hayley E. Lavik said...

Very nice Karen (for some reason this didn't show up in my Reader notification). I abuse eyes a lot in my first draft, because they're definitely focal, but I like to keep them during intimate (good or bad) moments. They're that gateway to emotion and intellect, rather than purely physical, so they're great to use to form a connection. I just try to keep them out of angry scenes, when balled fists, clenched jaws and sharp gestures work a lot better than flashing eyes. Flared nostrils are a nice one for less overtly angry characters.

I use touch a lot in my current ms, which I think goes back to an earlier guest post on the five languages of love (I'm sorry, I'm too tired to go digging right now). Alkaia's so antsy about contact, that a gentle touch speaks volumes where a pledge or action would make her suspicious. Any contact in a personal area (like the face) or a vulnerable area (stroking the throat or under side of the wrist) becomes intimate.

Helena said...

Karen, this is so comprehensive. My gut has always told me to get the eyes in first (in my h/h interaction) because it seems almost instinctive for the first contact of any kind to be through the eyes.

My first serious boyfriend got my attention by winking (and smiling - I think smiling is the next most important early contact. Everything from the tiny little upturn at the corner of the mouth to the broad grin)

I'm trying really hard (a la Hayley) to work in all those other really important body language ways of conveying emotion, esp. the tense jaw and what the hands are doing and how.

Very, very useful. Thanks, Karen.

Silver James said...

I love the part of editing/revising the early drafts when you get to layer in all those physical keys you rushed through on the first draft.

That said, I'm a sucker for eyes. "Beautiful" eyes draw me like a moth to flame. Expression, color, willingness to meet my gaze... Then I look at the rest. My RL RML, is bald, a bit overweight (aren't most of us? LOL), but his eyes are still as magnetic as they were almost 30 years ago when we first met.

But if I'm windowshopping, a nice @$$ isn't bad either. Just sayin'... *gigglesnort*

Karen said...

Hi Hayley. The neck and the inner wrist, both big erogenous zones. I can see where Alkaia would be leery of touching and its fascinating to read how she deals with it.

It sounds like you're on the right creative track (well, I know you are - I've read some of your work).

Karen said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Helena. The eyes are one of my favorite body parts. Especially brown eyes with deep laugh lines at the edges. ;) Fell for those big time.

I'm still working on incorporating a variety of gestures, different stances, etc. when I'm editing. Hopefully it'll get easier with practice.

Karen said...

Hey, Silver. I love eyes too, so much so, I posted a picture of my favorite pair!

I'm finding I'm enjoying the editing if I'm layering in emotion of internal conflict. It's the external plot that's causing me problems.

And I hear ya!

DebH said...

very informative post. i, personally, am an eye girl first and foremost. i've been places where a guy creeps me out because of his eyes (some had great bodies, but the eyes completely negated that facet).
i found out clues to when a man wants to kiss a woman sometime in college. a good friend of mine was talking with me near the library fairly late in the evening. we were standing close (that location thing...) and suddenly he got an odd look on his face that i'd never seen before. i asked him 'what?' and that's when he kissed me.
ever since that time, i've been able to see a kiss coming and duck it or lean in for it (most guys get that 'look'), depending on my desire for said kiss. it came in handy for those times i liked the guy, but not enough to kiss - so i would move or distract him so his ego wouldn't get wounded.

i'm saving this post to refer to when i'm working on my next WIP.

Karen said...

Hi Deb. Those eyes. They're capable of so much. They can zero in, lose focus, pin a person down.

And you're right, the eyes don't lie! He can be making all the right moves but if the eyes tell a different story, it's time to hit the road. The villian's eyes tell a story too.

I love that you learned to recognize the 'look'. I wish I'd been a smart as you!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karen,
Very informative post. It's true that so much of communication is non-verbal so it's a good tool for writers to be able to use.

The freakiest thing that I remember about someone giving me "the eye" was not in a romantic sense at all. I had been called as a potential juror. A bunch of us gathered at the court house and the defence attorney and crown prosecutor looked us over and said whether or not they wanted us on the jury. While I was waiting in line, a looked over and saw the defence attorney staring at me. I mean really staring at me. I don't think I've ever been so uncomfortable with someone looking at me in my life! I'm not sure what he was looking for (did I look like a trustworthy person?) but I did serve on that jury.


Karen said...

Hey, Jana. Knock on wood I've never been called for jury duty.

It's seldom we're under such obvious scrutiny, usually it's more subtle. That would make a person squirm! What an interesting experience. Have you used it in your writing?

Erika said...

Eyes are the windows to the soul, or so it's been said. I tend to be a sucker for dark eyes, especially in my writing. I think dark eyes can hide much more than light. I don't know why, I just do.

As far as my RML favorite way to touch, he's not allowed to touch Carly. She won't have it, so there isn't a favorite touch yet. I'll have to think one up though. Good question.

ban said...

creepy eyes - i met a guy once who had a way of 'invading your space' when he looked at you. you know when someone is paying attention to you, when they are really listening but this guy ... it was like he was trying to stare INTO you - i didn't like it one bit ! I couldn't look at him for long and then I got upset with myself because I thought he might think I was intimidated.

Karen said...

Hi Erika. That's good, the tension is building. You've also got a good handle on how she goes about letting him know she's ready. ;)

Light versus dark? You could be onto something there ...

Karen said...

Hey, ban. The cringe factor! There's something to be said for a guy respecting your space and therefore respecting you. I would guess, this guy's interest was not genuine or meaningful.

That life experience and the feelings that went along with it might find its way into a story of yours one day.

Silver James said...

Karen, I forgot to mention earlier that those are really cute eyes you shared. Just sayin'... *wink*FYI, ladies, I am soooo stealing some of these personal experiences for my books. Wow!

Karen said...

I was thinking the exact same thing. All the personal stories shared here could definitely have a place in a wip.

And, thanks!

Janet C. said...

Great post, Karen. I'm guilty of too much 'eye' stuff too - and Mena learns when Hugh is about to kiss her by the darkening of his sky blue eyes.

And Helena, if you come back, my dad winked at my mom the first time he saw her. Her and her girlfriends ran away. When she saw him again, she remembered him instantly because of that wink ;)

BTW - great pic of your favorite eyes, Karen :)

Karen said...

Evening, Janet. What a sweet memory!

Hugh and his sky blue eyes - he's pretty hard to resist. sigh.

And thanks.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karen, terrific post. It really made me think. In fact, I went to think about my answer while I did the dishes and one thing led to another and then I was on my way to Regina...

I know, this is becoming a habit of mine...

What always did it for me when I was dating was the guy's eyes. If what he said or did wasn't reflected in his eyes, he lost interest to me regardless of how the rest of him looked.

After that came humour. He had to be able to laugh at himself because if he didn't, I assumed he'd take me too seriously as well and I'm such a goof, that would never do.

The part that kept me thinking yesterday was the little things my H/h did to signify affection. Karen, you mentioned tucking a strand of hair behind the ear and yes, I've used that one but you know, I can't recall anything else. So, while I'm doing these revisions, I'm going to take a closer look at that aspect.

Thank you Karen.