Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Eyes and Hands Have It

This post is being formed as my fingers (and hopefully) brain type it.

I was driving in to work this morning, wondering what to write about next, what could help folks out, me included, with writing. Then it hit me like a ball peen hammer in the center of the forehead--movies. But not just any old movies. Lon Chaney movies. And no, not his son, Lon Chaney, Jr.--I'm thinking of The Man of a Thousand Faces, Mr. Phantom of the Opera himself.

We watched a biography about Lon last night, along with a Turner Classic Movies compilation of still shots from the lost (?) film, London After Midnight, and the one thing that kept coming home was the expressiveness of his eyes and hands. Most all of his films were silent, and he was a natural at acting in these films, partly because his parents were hearing-impaired and could not speak, so Lon learned at an early age how to communicate non-verbally.

I sat there, watching how he could express torment or menace or pure joy with his eyes and his hands, and I thought, how perfect. I'll bet that can be adapted to writing. I've ignored that, or rather, neglected it, previously. I've written about the use of white space in our writing, how to use pauses and silence to convey meaning. Now, a new way to express thoughts. Brevity and economy of words.

A man walks into a room. Large room. Several people in there, milling about. His friend sees him and walks over, looks at him. "Hal? You okay, man?"

Hal says nothing, but sweat forms on his forehead as he tries to look calm. He leans against a wall, his fingers running through his hair, his eyes darting about, scanning the room, glancing quickly at the one door into and out of the room.

His friends asks him again, "Hal?"

Hal finally makes eye contact with his friend as though for the first time.

Okay, well, you get the idea. This was a ham-handed first shot, but you see how you could handle a scene with minimum dialogue.

Give it a whirl. And watch some Lon Chaney movies. Study them. The man can scream with his eyes and hands.

For more on white space in writing, check this out:

Keep writing, friends.


  1. I know that my hands and eyes are well developed as I have always expressed myself through them but I know how some of my friends have their ears as their connection to the world and so their ears tell them...I sort of envy them.

    1. I know what you mean. I'm visual, not auditory. My wife and I are highly animated when we speak. If we didn't have use of our hands while talking, I don't know what we'd do. :-)


Hi, folks. Tom here. I wish to encourage open, friendly conversation on my blog. I would love to hear from you.

I am a bit slow at times, so please check back. I will respond to your comments.