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February 21, 2012
Posted at 7:52 pm

Nodding Off and Out

I'm really trying to observe the world more closely around me, because I think it's making me a better writer.

I notice that I often write that my protagonist has nodded in response to some event or statement. I also find other authors frequently do the same. We say that a characters nods as an answer to whatever is said or asked.

Is this true? Is that what people do? Somehow it didn't feel honest to use the 'nodding' device all the time. I started to study actual conversations specifically to figure out about 'nodding,' and also about 'shrugging,' which seems related. I suppose 'shrugging' could be translated as, "I dunno." I focused on conversations where I was a participant, and others in which I was only an observer.

Hm, ok, I do shrug in response fairly often, and I observed many other people doing it, too, so I'm happy with using it in my prose. But not so with nodding, I found. People do often nod in conversations, but only along with, and simultaneously to, whatever they are saying. Rarely, however, do they nod alone as a communication. I only once saw someone nod without verbiage to answer a question.

Why do writers use 'nodding' so often then? Is it because it's easier than putting in all those commas, capitalization, and quotation marks? Is it easier to envision 'nodding' in the mind than to imagine what someone would say?

Maybe I'm watching the wrong people, or only those who have an unusual style of talking. I should keep watching to see if my thesis holds over a longer data collection period. Anyway, for now, I'm trying to curb my use of 'nodding.'