Body language is very important in my books. While a facial expression can easily hint at the emotional state and thought processes of the characters, body language gives the reader extra clues about how the characters are feeling and thinking. This makes it easier for the reader to understand the images and the story. I would argue that accurate and expressive body language also makes the characters feel more real, more human – which helps the reader to engage with the story.
I had a body language issue in some roughs for my new book, My Dead Bunny. There’s a scene where the main character has just dug up his dearly departed rabbit to check if he’s alright (you can see a little section of the final illustration above). The text (written by Sigi Cohen) goes like this:
I poked at Bradley with a stick —
His fur was muddy, damp and thick,
And in his final resting place,
The worms had tried to eat his face.
So. This was my first sketch:
I refrained from showing the bunny, only his shoebox coffin – it’s grosser if I let you imagine it in your head. I liked the composition and the worms … but the boy’s body language was off. He just didn’t look disgusted enough.
So I tried again:
This one was better than the last one, kind of. Just. The facial expression was a little better too. I thought it could all be better though.
So I tried again:
I felt I was getting close with this one. Turning the boy’s body away from the shoebox showed he was trying to avoid it. (The facial expression was better too, it looked more disgusted.) The body language could be amped up even more though.
So I tried … again:
This was my final sketch. Much better. The boy is standing as far back as he can to avoid having to smell the shoebox. The body language is reinforcing the look of disgust on the boy’s face.
Here’s all four of those sketches in one spot so you can compare:
And here’s the page the illustration comes from.
What do you think – does the body language work?
My Dead Bunny is released on October 1st.