How to get across a room.

my grandmother with her dancing students
my grandmother with her dancing students

“People was treat you like you have money,” I said. I was walking with my grandmother to her car in the library parking lot. I was 14.

“What do you mean?” she asked, unlocking her red Chevrolet hatchback.

I waited for her to buckle her seat belt. “They treat you better than they treat some other people but you don’t have any money or anything. I mean…Oh, I don’t know what I mean but they listen and do what you want.”

“I don’t know about that, sweetheart.” She put the car into gear. “It’s probably my posture. Posture is very important. You know that I don’t ever want to see you slouch. Now, where shall we go for lunch?”

I took my acting class tonight and it made me think about the way people carry themselves (I don’t slouch by the way), move through a room, and move around other people. This isn’t an entirely new thought. In grad school sometimes a friend and I distracted ourselves from our books by commenting how people walked and what it said about them. But tonight this acting class exercise made me think about characters and how they move–the fast walkers and the slow walkers. The ones who lead with their head and the ones who lead with their pelvis. The ones who zip and the one who drag. I don’t know that this detail will make it into the story, but it seems I ought to know.

Have you ever considered how your characters move and what it says about them?

10 thoughts on “How to get across a room.

  1. Just have to say again that your photos are wonderful. I’m really enjoying them.

    I do notice how people walk – all the time. I especially like the confident stances of top athletes and what they convey about themselves simply by the way they move their bodies. I watched a couple of people take their black-belt tests yesterday, and I was impressed with how all the martial artist stood, walked, bowed. Beauty.

  2. The building I work in has these two long corridors on each floor, running east-west. At the ends of the hallways are floor-to-ceiling windows; during the workday, as I look up the hall towards someone approaching from the other end, it always surprises me how certainly I recognize that person just from the walk, because the backlighting creates a stark silhouette which hides their features and often hair styles, etc. too.

    I love watching (surreptitiously, of course) how people move. And the movements of people you know and love are almost choreographed; after you’ve fallen out with someone, or they’ve died, just a slight echo of their walk in someone else’s can still make your heart skip a beat, even years later.

    But to answer your question, no, I don’t think I’ve paid a lot of explicit attention to my characters’ gaits, posture, and such. Which now I’m worrying about.

  3. I’ve done an exercise like that, where you walk about the room from different places in your body. It was very interesting how that changed everything about how I felt.

    I think I have done a little bit of that “how characters move” thing, but not that much, and I don’t think I have really focused on it.

    Although, the three sisters and their mother all share the same distinctive posture, in my book, although it shows up as dignified, glamorous, rebellious and… undefined still in the various characters. So I guess that’s similar to what you are talking about.

  4. Having been a dancer in high school, I’m pretty aware of how people carry themselves and move. How painfully some people get around, with bad knees and crooked posture and tension, as they signal their low self-esteem and resentment by slouching, or anger by their tensed stance…a truly open and welcoming stance is hard to find in adults (at least, in my urban area) and it’s the little kids who seem the most easy in their bodies.

    In my novel I write about how the mother notices her teenage daughter’s evolving sexuality, based on the way she stands and carries herself; sometimes repelling, sometimes attracting attention. Teenage girls broadcast so much, both knowingly and unknowingly- then they grow up and often become disconnected, or hide themselves away.

    I like watching martial artists too- and professional football players- the way they leap into the air and sprint across the field.

  5. Oh no! It’s made me think about how I move and what it says about me! I have visited here three or four times now and each time I have gone away with so much to think about. It has also given me another purpose for those lovely moments of people watching!
    The skeletons do like coffee but I tend not to encourage them as it produces some quite erratic behaviour and a tendency to be too frightening.
    Will visit again soon 🙂

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