Saturday, April 23, 2011
Talking Hands In Worldbuilding
Can a gesture make or break my story? Hardly. In fact, it’s probably at the bottom of the list of things I need to think about to make my story a best seller. But, it is an out of the ordinary way of putting a face to my worldbuilding, especially the culture in the story. An image of Mr. Spock and his hand greeting pops into my head and standing right behind him is a whole culture of what it means to be Vulcan. “Live Long and Prosper.” A great gesture that lives on beyond the series.
In the mountains where I live, the old-timers will drive down the road in their old trucks and gesture to the oncoming cars or trucks checking out the reply. A greeting, yes. But it’s more of a non-verbal question and answer dialogue with fingers. As the oncoming vehicle approaches, the old-timer will lift one solitary finger of the left hand, the pointer. The gesture is saying, “Howdy. I’m from here. Who are you?” The response could be a “howdy back,” using again the one finger signal, indicating, “I am not a stranger.” As the vehicles pass, the drivers will eye each other and bob their heads. Confirmation made. Other responses could be lifting four fingers of the left hand with the thumb hugging the wheel, a two finger wave, or no reply at all. These responses say to the old-timer,“flatlanders, or downlanders, or folks from off the mountain.” These are only the surface meanings of the gestures. I would think that what's underneath is the only reasons for having a specific gesture that can give bulk to a character or a society.
Of course, any worldbuilding I can think up needs to be more than window dressing. Going back to my mountain gesture, what if in my story the main character is traveling through a secluded mountain region where there are two warring factions. What if not knowing the right greeting could get him killed.
I would love to know what gestures, if any, in books or movies have stood out in your mind. Do you think a gesture can help describe your character or the society in which you’re building?
If gestures interest you, here’s a site that describes a fistful. Chuckle.
Till Next time,