Are there ANY alternatives to head nodding or shaking?

The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety. quote by Deepak Chopra

This week in creativity, I’ve been wrestling with characters shaking/nodding their heads. Human communication relies heavily on head nods and shakes. We all do it, and we do it constantly.

While characters may bolt, dash, dart or flee rather than simply running away, there is no other way to say nod or shake his/her head. At a pinch, you could say, ‘made a shaking notion with his head’ and…

No, you couldn’t. It sounds ridiculous.

What’s a writer to do? So far, 34 head shakes and 38 nods have popped up in the 64,000 words I’ve written so far. That’s five head bobs too many*, though on the plus side, at least my characters are more positive than negative.

Other physical actions that are difficult to describe in any other way include:

  • Raised his/her eyebrows (quirked them?)
  • Shrugged (raised her shoulders up and down?)
  • Grinned (the corners of his mouth lifted upwards?)
  • Smiled (as above)
  • Opened/shut the door.

Here’s an illustration…

Nell opened the door. Daniel glanced up at her and smiled.
“Are we going out for dinner?” she asked.
Daniel shook his head. “Too busy, sorry. How about tomorrow night?”
Nell shrugged. “Let’s see how I feel after work. I might be too tired.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Too tired? You do nothing at work.”
He grinned to soften the insult.

Or,

Nell fastened her hand to the door and swung it open. Daniel glanced up at her, the corners of his mouth tilting upwards.
“Are we going out for dinner?” she asked.
Daniel turned his head from side to side. “Too busy, sorry. How about tomorrow night.”
Nell lifted her shoulders up to her ears. “Let’s see how I feel after work. I might be too tired.”
He piqued an eyebrow. “Too tired? You do nothing at work.”
He widened his mouth to soften the insult.

Creativity part 2

After reading a post about Pinterest for authors on a blog about writing, I’m revisiting the platform.

This paragraph stuck out:

For those of us overwhelmed by conversations and connections, Pinterest is a refreshing platform. You can spend hours (or minutes) looking at pretty things and not have to talk to another human. It is an introvert’s dream: a social platform where you don’t have to be social to be successful. This also means that it’s really easy to get started with Pinterest as compared to other platforms.

Kirsten Oliphant, Jane friedman blog on writing

Hooray! Permission granted to ditch Instagram and TikTok, where my feeble attempts to build a platform have failed miserably. Does anyone in the world put down their phone after scrolling through Instagram, and think, Well, I feel TONNES better now…?

So, after spending two years creating zillions of square and horizontally-shaped graphics, I’ve reverted to Pinterest-friendly rectangular ones, like the ones below.

And this one is for a board about my Highland books

This week’s Google searches related to writing

  • What weekday was May 28 in 2016
  • Waldorf doormen uniform
  • Photos of Waldorf reception (hard to come by, but I did chance upon the magnificent ‘swan’ bath towel pictured below)
  • Industrial estates in Anniesland, Glasgow
  • Pegasus in Greek mythology
  • Jobs in tech       
Bath towels folded to look like a swan

What I’m reading/watching

The book Klara and the Sun

Last year, the book group I belong to participated in a reading challenge set by the Booker Prize’s organisers. You can find out more about that here. We did not win (boo!); however, taking part led to other things…

BBC Scotland consulted us about a new radio programme about books and reading, and as a result I’m reluctantly excitedly taking part in the pilot show, in which a group of us discuss Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

According to the blurb: In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

Fingers crossed I don’t come across as too thick… If any of you have read the book, what did you think of it?

Bank of Dave on Netflix
Bank of Dave. Picture: Netflix

Do you need something cheery and not too brain-taxing to watch? The Bank of Dave on Netflix is delightful. The good guys win, the bad buys get their heads to play with and there’s a message about how the ‘establishment’ works only for a tiny minority of the UK’s population. (The Rupert Murdoch-owned Times critic described the film as ‘alarmingly simplistic’, proving the point oh-so-flipping well.)

*Characters in the novel Twilight are notorious for repeatedly nodding/shaking their heads.

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5 thoughts on “Are there ANY alternatives to head nodding or shaking?

  1. Hi Emma,
    I cannot think of any alternatives. While I’m not a reader of a lot of fiction, I don’t think I mind if I read about head shaking and nodding many times with little or no variation.
    You could take it to an anatomical level and discuss the movements of the proximal cervical vertebrae and their relationship with the base of the skull and the associated muscles working in harmony. I expect many readers would object. You’d win me over, though.

  2. I remember reading the Twilight books and not noticing how many head nods happened, hopefully if the story is good enough, the reader won’t even notice. 😘
    Loved Bank Of Dave! Being about Burnley, it’s very local to me in Clitheroe. Have now rediscovered my love of Def Leppard. 🙂

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