Friday, April 29, 2011

Gestalt Theory

Gestalt theory is a fascinating theory to me. It was developed by Fritz Pearls, a German born Psychiatrist. The whole point of the theory is to get people to become more aware of the here and now and to take responsibility. It has some really amazing points to it that I completely agree with. The delivery is not my style though because of how confrontational it is.

One of the things that Fritz does or a Gestaltian does is make the client aware of their physical movements and actions. They do this by pointing things out to them like: “What are you doing with your leg” or “I see your eyes are starting to tear up.” The psychologist is doing this throughout the session. It is interesting and if you want to watch Fritz doing it you can go here. Fritz also talks more about the theory in the beginning.

Okay what does this have to do with characterization? First of all, this blog, if you have noticed isn’t all about characterizationJ (but that’s besides the point) The point is that we/our characters say one thing but mean another. For example in the clip Gloria is smiling while she is talking about sad things. Fritz points this out to her. We all do this and Fritz would call us phonies. So, when we are creating our characters in our books remember that their actions, their body language do not always match what they are saying or feeling.

Body language doesn’t lie even when our words may beJ

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think we can lie with our body language? Can we ever truly mask our thoughts and feelings? Also, can another person really be good enough to interpret our body language accurately, like on the show Lie To ME?

There are only a few days left for me to reach my goal of 100 followers in a month. I am planning a celebration one week after I reach my hundredth follower. At this time I’ll be giving away a $15 Amazon gift certificate. Go here to get the rules.


  1. Haha- yet again another post that reminds me of myself! I am definately one to not have my body langauage not always match my thoughts/words. It's not that I want to lie to people, if I do it, its more because I don't want to make other people feel bad or unconfortable- the people pleaser in me! I could see it being really tricky though to display and create a good image of different body language in a book when the character is thinking something else- that would take some really good writing skills!
    I am excited about your giveaway! hope you get to a hundred follows soon! :)

  2. Oh you're so close!!! You'll have 100 in no time. And this is a really interesting study. Body language says a lot, and I struggle to keep my characters using better language than eyes rolling and brows rising sort of thing. I also try to give each one their own set of body language, and sometimes rely on that instead of dialogue.
    It really can be more powerful than words.

    Thanks for the offer to tread my story. I would love that! I'll let you know when it's ready. :)

  3. I know a woman who smiles no matter what she says. When she's being critical she smiles. When she's being complimentary, she smiles. When she talks about something that makes her angry or frustrates her, she smiles.

    She's an incredibly difficult person to interact with, especially when her emotions are ambiguous. She makes it likely that the other person will always say the wrong thing.

    Oh, did I mention she's easily insulted?

    She would make a great character in a book.


  4. Whitney - I agree I think it would be hard as well. I don't think people lie on purpose it is just the way that they have been raised it is more of a culture thing.
    Pk - Thanks for the encouraging words.That is such a good point to give each character their own body language.
    Lucy - thanks for sharing a great example of this. I think she would make a great character in a book.
    Desiree - Thanks for the comment. I enjoyed your blog and hope to see you around frequently. Don't forget to sign up for the drawing!

  5. OK, I've just read today's post and you've piqued my interest sufficiently for me to break my own rule i.e. JOIN NO MORE BLOGS...YOU FOLLOW TOO MANY ALREADY! I have just joined as a follower so now your count is up to 94...only another 6 to go till you reach your goal of 100 in a month :)

    This was very interesting. I have a dilemma though...if it's true that our body language never lies, then what about the person Lucy Adams mentions! How does one READ someone like that accurately?

  6. Thanks Desiree I'm honored to have you as a follower. In general the situation that Lucy describes means that their is something being hidden. The woman being described could be anxious about letting her true feelings show. It would be interesting to explore what she is really trying to say with her body language.

  7. I would argue that body language can lie. I mean con men and actors are a good example of people who can control their body language to whatever situation they need, even if their true emotions aren't in it. Granted the best actors will get into their characters so that they can feel what the situation demands but it still isn't who they truly are.

    That being said, everyone has patterns to their body language. There are those who smile in anger, freeze in confrontation, and go giddy with anticipation. These aren't lies, so long as they are the person's regular reaction, but they are personal and unique. We may think someone is lying because they don't react the same way we do, but that doesn't mean it is a lie, it is just not what we expected to see.

    Body language plays an important role and the trick with authors is to slide it in so it seems natural to read and is consistent to the character.

  8. I was just thinking about body language in the novel I'm currently rewriting, and how that plays into the conversation. Also, I've been noticing that some authors (Isaac Asimov being one of the best at it) use body language to help reveal more of their character's nature.

    I do think we people can lie with their body language--one example of that would be how people seem convincing, or honest, even though if they have dishonorable intentions.

  9. I would not do well with this type of therapy. I avoid confrontation at ALL costs! It is intriguing though. I think a person could learn to interpret another, but I don't think they would be able to interpret everyone. There is no universal, cross-cultural body language that can be learned.

  10. Very interesting!!! I see your eyes are moving across this comment right now. What can you tell me about that?

  11. i think this adds layers to your characters and mystery when you can mix in their ticks with their words...great stuff

  12. This is such an interesting post! Yes, I believe there are some masters at body language and disquise. I do love the the show Lie to me, but I tell you 100% sure that there are those who can. How do I know? Well maybe someday I will tell you. Thanks for the great posts and for your support on mine.

  13. I think only a really bad liar could lie with their body language. I might be wrong, but usually your body give you away. It is good to have a blog to come to that is just about characterisation.

    Nearly 100 followers! Congrats in advance Josh!


    A - Z - Y

  14. body language is often forgotten in writing so you make a great point.

  15. I can't even lie with my words :)

    Body language is so important to show our characters emotions, great reminder.

    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  16. I think this is any interesting way to show true character feelings. I know that it's possible for the body to say one thing and the words to tell another story, but I think that not all of us are attuned to this.

    Just want to say that it's a pleasure to have met you thru the A-Z. Looking forward to future posts after the Challenge is over.

  17. I just finished the Hunger Games not too long ago and she does that in a very deliberate way. She presents herself the way she thinks will give her the greatest advantage or get her in the least amount of trouble, often without words, but in actions only. I, however, am horrible at this! I am the worst liar on the planet... you can always tell when my actions and my internal dialog don't match.

  18. I believe that you can control your body language to an extent to mask certain thoughts or emotions. However, everyone has certain tells that even they are not aware of at times that may give them away.
    I just read Divergent. They address this very topic throughout the book; whether acting knowingly or subconciously. Either way it is an interesting thought to remember as we write.

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