I recently read a post on FB where writers were debating whether men put their hands on their hips. Some were adamant that they don’t, and others like myself knew they do based on my own male relatives and contacts. That conversation lead me to think about hands in general. How we describe them in our writing and when they become the center focus of a scene.
From a clean romance writer perspective, hands are often part of the romantic tension. How many ways can a couple hold hands?
- Hands cupped together is less intimate than fingers entwined.
- His thumb rubbing over her fingers, or her fingers feather light over the top of his hand are also intimate gestures.
- His fingers tracing a pattern in her palm or her fingers roaming between his fingers as they sit and chat.
Hands play a big part in building romantic tension
A hand on the small of the back to guide a woman was considered good manners for centuries in America. But how much pressure is applied or the length it remains there can speak volumes. Is it a rough push or a gentle open palmed caress? The palm lingering long enough for the lady to notice can be either perceived as lecherous or loving.
In days gone by a man didn’t touch a woman’s ungloved hand. Women danced with gloves on. Even the kissing of the hand was usually an air kiss or on the gloved hand. Bare skin touching was sensual.
The amount of pressure on the hand can speak love, jealousy, anger or fear. All of the John Wayne/ Maureen O’Hara movies have the same an iconic scene repeated in each. Near the end of the movie John grabs Maureen’s hand and drags her home. They make up and love blooms full. Pretty sure in a modern story it wouldn’t be too believable.
- A finger can stroke a wrist in a sensual fashion or put enough pressure on it to bruise.
- A man whose wrestling with anger might fist his hands at his sides or dig his nails into his palms.
- She can slap his face, scratch him or dig her nails into his palm while he holds her against her will.
- He can apply a lot of pressure in a handshake to relay a message to his rival. Either: she’s mine, I’m the better man or even watch your back.
Hands aid tension
- Arms and hands at the character’s side in surrender or as an act of defiance
- In front of the face to cover a horrible sight or a laugh
- Running through his hair in frustration
- Fingers in his/her hair as part of a passionate kiss
- She twists her hair between her fingers when thinking or worried
- Moving a tendril of hair either their own or their love interests can attract attention or stir desire.
- The position of a weapon in the hands of a character can tell the reader if they are frightened, determined or inexperienced.
- An apparent calm character can reveal his fear with shaking hands.
- Hanging by finger tips (we get what that indicates)
- Hands on hips (female or male) usually relay aggravation or determination.
- Hands grasping the arms as they’re crossed across the body can indicate both anger and fear.
- Fingers trace objects to learn things like texture, density and temperature.
- Those same fingers tracing skin can be looking for wounds, affection or a creepy outcome.
Hands are essential in description.
Sometimes hands are implied. He raised the rifle. We know he didn’t use his toes. He reached for her. Unless he is an amputee we know he used his hands and arms to reach.
Hands and fingers can help layer the tension romantically, help solve a mystery or aid in murder.
Can you add to my list?
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