gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Small creatures, posture and body language

On my way home just now, I stopped off at the art shop. I finally gave into temptation and bought something I've needed for years: a jointed figure.

I need it for two things, one teaching/research and the other fiction-related. I might use it when I'm in need of an intelligent conversation as well, but that's peripheral.

It's a little androgynous creature, about six inches high. It has enough joints so that I have a fair choice of postures. I wanted one that was more articulated still, but this was the best that I could afford.

I want to use this little creature to help with worldbuilding. My Thai and Japanese friends tilt their heads differently to me and balance themselves quite differently. When we slump forward, we slump forward in diverse ways. We hold ourselves differently partly due to cultural reasons.

If I'm building a culture (even an Aussie one) I need to know the language of that culture. What tilt of the head is correct and what core balance and what slumping forward. I need to understand this in a dynamic way, not just nod my head and say "They're not us." If I'm building a non-Earth world, I need to understand how someone striding forth to deal with problems strides and why one culture's body language can lead to silly assumptions by someone from another culture.

I've always done this sort of thing in my mind and my own body before. Pilates and folk dance gave me some of the tools I needed. I need to go further, though, if I want to understand my characters from inside. If we are what we eat, we are even more what we present to the world.
Knowing how a character presents to the world is, for me, a large part in finding out how the plot is going to ravel and unravel.

Body language also helps communicate personality. Once I have it sorted, I can add cues in for readers to show which it is without having to say every single time "X looked brave but inside was a rabbit."

What else will I do to my creature?

I intend to sit with many pictures, all from Medieval manuscripts, and to check my assumptions about Medieval posture. This means I can fix some work I as doing earlier on it for the Beast, and it also means that I can teach my history classes more effectively.

I shall take my little creature into class and use it for demonstration and also for students to work with. I'll do my usual making people stand up and adopt postures, but this has limits. For one thing, men and women really do have different centres of balance. For another, I can't show as many effects working solely within peoples' knowledge of their own bodies as I can with a jointed figurine.

Many years ago I used a real 3/4 skeleton for some of these purposes, but George/Yorik (he had 2 heads) had too many limitations. Also, he had mould. He was my mother's and she sold him to an enthusiastic medical student.
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