Non-verbal communication in prose

Some scientists say that over ninety percent of all communication is non-verbal — tone, inflection and volume of voice, gestures, facial expressions, and body positions. As a writer of prose, I have often wondered about how to include this in a scene.

On one hand, I might describe the gestures one character uses in reaction to a statement or event, e.g. Manny folded his arms across his chest and glared at Alice. When she didn’t react, his lips melted into a frown. If left alone, the reader must then make their own conclusion about the Manny’s reaction.

Or I could simply state the character’s reaction, e.g. Manny glared at Alice, vitriol casting his face into an ugly frown. This, however, garners many a critique: “Show me, don’t tell me!”

Personally I prefer a combination of the two, even at the cost of a few readers telling me to show them Manny’s reaction.

Manny folded his arms across his chest and glared at Alice. Vitriol melted his eyebrows and lips into an ugly frown. The tilt of his chin darkened his eyes.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion.

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