Manning Up To My Mannerisms #peoplewatching #selfawareness

An article in the paper caught my eye…

Wrinkles could signal health trouble

It was one if those look at me studies that seek to make unlikely links and secure a headline in the silly season. Apparently the deeper the frown lines, the more likely the widow maker.

Which caused the Textiliste to turn and stare at me.

You wrinkle your forehead when you smile.

It’s true. It’s not worry that makes me create fleshy shelving.

This is the cover of one of my books; beneath the surface I’m smiling…

As I’m pondering this, wondering if that makes me odd, she shook her part of the paper and added…

You do a lot of odd things without realising it….

When I did a creative writing course, a few years back, the tutor suggested one way to distinguish our characters was to give them a mannerism. In Salisbury Square, my third novel, Jerzy rubs his thighs without being aware of it.

He went back to rubbing his trousers. “I’m sick to death of it: the violence. I hate myself for being like them, you know? Hate it.” The pace of the rubbing increased as he gripped and released his fists at the end of each stroke.

It reminded me of a senior lawyer I knew back in the early eighties when I was starting out in the legal world. If you asked him a question that demanded an elongated answer – and did he like elongating his answers – he would sit opposite you and give his thighs a jolly good rub, as if to warm up either his hands or legs or both. Once he’d decided on what he wanted to say, he would stop, sit back and give you the benefit of his considerable wisdom.

Such as?

You have to be brave when you ask these questions, don’t you? Where might this be going?

Your eyebrows trampoline a bit when you’re talking

I went on a public speaking course, run by a former MP Greville Janner when I became a partner in my law firm. Mr Janner didn’t spare us. The speaker before me was so terrified he positively gurned as he delivered his little set piece.

Is there a small mammal nesting in your face?

I grant you, it was a bit overactive, that face, like the skin was trying to get free. So as I stepped up I made a conscious effort to still my expression. Janner watched and waited until I finished. I stood, sure the inevitable coruscating criticism was coming…

Nothing.

Still Nothing

Then…

Are you alive, Mr Le Pard?

Odd question, really. What he went on to add was that the lack of any animation anywhere on my face, including, he said with a shrill tone denoting his incredulity, my mouth made him wonder if I was just a mannequin with a recording device somewhere inside. I’d overdone the control.

So facial movement, even if it involves two small caterpillars flossing on my brow-line has a necessary accompaniment to my modes of speech.

And then there’s what you do on the phone

The phone? Now, I learnt from my mother, in one of those I’m not doing what she does ways of learning that parents inadvertently employ, that I wasn’t going to develop that staple of the 1950s and 60s sitcom: the telephone voice. That said I do answer the phone with a jolly interrogative ending – like a castrated Australian someone once told me – which often leads to the caller saying ‘Hello Mrs Le Pard, can I interest you…?’ 

I interrupt with a deep, baritone, ‘No, you can’t,’ making a mental note that next time, I will embrace my butch side and lose a few octaves.

My voice?

Nope, not my voice. I hug the hand that is not holding the handset tight under my armpit, as if it might escape and randomly press keys or drum tattoos on passing marsupials (there’s something oddly antipodean happening with this post).  Why? I don’t know I’m doing it so how do I know why I’m doing it? I will make an effort to shake my hand loose and watch where it decides to roam. I will report back.

But that’s not the strangest thing…

And you know what? I didn’t want to know. No, that’s baloney, of course, I wanted to know and, of course, she told me and, of course, I’m not telling you. Yes, you will now be speculating and no, it doesn’t involve any personal mining of easily reached openings. But I’m changing my style of speeching.

From now on, if I’m not holding something to rein in my urge to… well. to do what it is I do, I shall be employing jazz hands…

You have been warned.

Do you employ mannerisms for you characters, or do you engage in subconscious fiddling and faffing when you talk? More to the point do you have a super-observant spouse/partner/other busybody waiting to overshare? If so, we can form a support group. Give me a few days and I’ll work out a really cool secret handshake….

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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43 Responses to Manning Up To My Mannerisms #peoplewatching #selfawareness

  1. I developed those forehead furrows in my teens

    Like

  2. noelleg44 says:

    Hubs once told me if I sat on my hands, I couldn’t talk. Well…yes, I can, but it’s not the same. Do you think it was his polite way of telling me to be quiet?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ritu says:

    I’m.not sure actually…
    But liking the idea of your jazz hands…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I am afraid I am the super observant spouse. I am most intrigued by the ritualistic scratching that goes on at the end of the day. Also I notice many males seem to need to check to make sure that everything is where it is meant to be and rearrange it if it isn’t.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My eyes cross and my head loosely leans to one side when the gray matter, only inches away, begins to distress of too much small talk. It should count for something. . .
    For my limited fiction, I love using stuff like this. It builds the mental image almost as fast as the shirt your protagonist is wearing with the buttons misaligned by one.

    Like

  6. My sons are great at pointing out my mannerisms.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was enjoyable Geoff. As I was reading I tried to make note of any mannerism that would be worth sharing. Unfortunately even asking around produced nothing. I think maybe I’ll work on one.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JT Twissel says:

    I agree that mannerisms are critical to build a character but like anything they can be overdone. We can’t all be Charles Dickens! I struggle getting the voice right. I don’t want all my characters to sound like me….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am a hand waver when I speak, Geoff. The larger the hand movements the more animated I feel about the subject. I have also been known to smirk when I am right – which is most of the time [such humility but we grow out of false modesty, don’t we?]

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I too am a hand waver when I speak and apparently I back off literally when someone becomes over familiar too soon – very British I know. Also when tired I tend to lurch to the left, possibly because my left leg is a little shorter than my right or possibly because I imbibed too much wine – who knows 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Mary Smith says:

    I gave a character a facial tic when he was angry and was appalled at how often I made tic. Had to tone it down a bit or it would have made it like he needed anger management.
    I’m the observant one in our partnership and I can tell you he has an awful lot of strange mannerisms, some of which are very irritating.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This was a great read that got me thinking Geoff! I love your examples and continue to learn loads from you and other people’s comments. My face fortunately or unfortunately, shows everything I’m thinking at the time, despite what my mouth may be saying. I am unable to hide my emotions and find it quite difficult at times – oops!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Such fun. I like a good mannerism for a character, if it’s subtle–like your phone-talking position. I might have to steal that! I am from the Cleveland, Ohio, area, land of the hand-talkers. I now live on the serene-talking East Coast, where people manage to speak without flapping their arms, so I’m out of my depth. But I think it’s my husband who does the funny things with his eyebrows, which twitch a lot, especially when he’s tired. Ah well. I guess that’s not grounds for divorce-ha!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. arlingwoman says:

    I use my hands a lot. I also raise one eyebrow when something dubious is being said by someone else. But the thing that gets me in trouble is the telephone. I listen. I don’t make a lot of sounds, or any sounds. This leads people to say suddenly “Are you there?” And then I realize I’m not saying “uh huh, mmmm, ahh, yeah…” and I start. though to be fair, some people are happy to talk without encouragement.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      That can be terribly disconcerting, like a police interview waiting for a suspect to give themselves away… how do I know that? Maybe you gave some rogue PI gene… the Gumshoe anomaly

      Liked by 1 person

      • arlingwoman says:

        I have a theory that it’s gender related. People expect all those little noises from women, but men can get away with not saying anything. I learned this behavior…in an office full of men…

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Probably. All us strong silent types… yeah, right. In my experience men in offices tended to talk through their arses a fair bit – at least a lot of unsatisfactory noises came from that direction…

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Since I live alone, no one is pointing things out except my daughter when she comes to visit. As I’ve aged, I am starting to make little noises like my mother did. I also use my hands like I’m filing through a Rolodex when searching for words in my head. My fingers move like they could find them. This was fun to read. Made me reflect.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Charli Mills says:

    It seems to be a benefit to a writer to be or be with “a super-observant spouse/partner/other busybody.”

    Like

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