Character Action Verbs and Body Language

 I figured it was about time I offer another meaty blog. Here’s a whopper listing character action verbs and body language verbs.

Body language and plain old action verbs are often interchangeable depending on their setting. 

Example: A character’s body might convulse if they are suddenly sick, having stroke etc. but emotion isn’t necessarily shown by this action. However if a character convulses with laughter, body language is being used to convey extreme amusement.

One thing it’s important to remember is that even if a character action isn’t body language, it should remain descriptive and without wordy sentences.

Example: Joe raced across the busy intersection and skidded to a halt behind the traffic cop VERSUS Joe ran across the intersection and stopped fast behind the traffic cop. Both are correct but the first example is more descriptive and conjures a better movie picture in the readers mind.

Likewise: He got away from the police. versus He eluded the police. There is nothing wrong with the first sentence but “get” verbs are lazy suckers that don’t say much and promote wordy sentences.  I also don’t like the word “away.” It’s a “repeat offender,” that is, it’s highly overused.

The lists below include simple non-emotional actions as well as body language. I’ve used BL after the words and phrases that “definitely” convey emotion.

A few phrases that aren’t marked BL could be body language or not, depending on their setting. 

Some verbs are used more than once to demonstrate their many uses. Have fun. Mix up the phrases and rewrite them to suit your story.

General Body Movements

bent her attention to – BL

boarded up the window

bobbed up for air

body convulsed

body swayed to music – BL

bounced around in the car

braced his arm against the door

car veered to miss the child and collided

cast his line in the lake

cavorted about town with the ladies

child held his crotch and danced a frantic jig – BL

chucked down another swig

clamped his fingers into tender flesh

cleaved the log clean in to

climbed into her clothes

clung to the post for support

cocked his head curiously – BL

corralled the horses

cowered down for warmth – BL

cringed at the thought BL

crisscrossed the country by plane

crowd milled in confusion BL

curled into a ball like a cat

detoured the scoundrel so her brother could

disembarked from the ship

dived into the food like a

dodged the blow

dog-paddled across the pool width

doodled on the phone pad and tapped the

doused his cigar in the bottle of whiskey

dragged his blanket in the dirt

drawing her back against his chest

drifting out of line

drooled spittle

dumped his coffee down the drain

edged closer to him for protection – BL

eluded his pursuers

escaped out the back door

expelled her breath in a whoosh

faltered when caught her arm

fiddled with his keys while he

fidgeted and squirmed – BL

flicking lint off his suit

flinched from his touch – BL

frolicked in the river like a happy – BL

gagged at the smell – BL

glided like a swan across

graceful movements captivated him – BL

halting, awkaward movements – BL

hands folded over her hips, lifting her

hastily stripped the orange peel

hovered above them with malice – BL

hunched over to look shorter – BL

hustled her along the sidewalk

impatient strides forced her to – BL

Hand And Arm Movement

impulsively shed her gown

juggled the books stacked haphazardly in

jumping like a cricket on a hot skillet – BL

just piddlin’ around

left arm curled around her waist

mother appropriated her lipstick from baby’s chubby grasp

nodded vigorously in reply – BL

planted himself in front of her desk

police converged on the

practiced sensual stroll – BL

preened – BL

proceed to give the same languid

propelled her down the hallway

propped his elbow on his knee

puffed a cigar

pulled up short

quick and jerky like unoiled cogs on a wheel – BL

rapped on the door

recoiled in disgust – BL

reconnoitered the hallways

reeled in a fish

reeled in surprise – BL

reeled off balance with the impact of the running child

rested his chin in his palm and looked thoughtful – BL

scarfed down the last biscuit – BL

scratched his hairy belly and yawned – BL

revealed even white teeth to the dentist

rocked back and forth on his heels – BL

rocked in his granny’s chair

roughly dragged the wig off her head – BL

rubbed a hand over his dark stubble

sank into the tub

stuffed her legs into jeans

stumbled over her stray shoe left in the middle of

sucked his thumb – BL

swallowed the disgusting medicine

swung himself up to ride pillion

teetered a second or two before she lost her balance

tossed her hair over her shoulder

trespassed onto her side of the

twitched nervously – BL

vaulted over the fence

wedged herself through the narrow opening

whisked her off to

withdrew from the room

wormed his way between them

applauded the stage actors

arms out, palms he up he begged for – BL

ball joints curved into biceps as he lifted

brandished his rapier, held it high and ready

brash sweep of his arm – BL

cast her arms about the child

clamped his fingers into tender – BL

clapped her hands on her hips in a

counted on his fingers – BL

crooked a finger at him in a gesture for him to follow – BL

crossed her arms, refusing to budge – BL

crushed the paper in his fist – BL

dangled the tempting morsel before his eyes

denuded the chicken of its feathers

dragged her along

dug his fingers into his palms BL

elbowed his son in the ribs and put his

fanned her heated face with her hands – BL

finger to his lips – BL

fingers drummed the table – BL

flipped him the bird – BL

flung off his restraining hand – BL

folded the sheets and

forked up a too-large bite and crammed it

froze in place – BL

gestured for the child to

grabbed a handful of hair with a vicious yank – BL

hands glided over his smooth torso

his arm bonded them together like Siamese twins

hoisted her up with an “Upsy daisy!”

hooked around her waist in a quick rough hug

imprisoned his arms

irritably punched her pillow – BL

jammed her hands in her pockets – BL

lashed out with a huge handbag – BL

lifted his paw to shake hands

muscles bulged as he wrestled with

played the piano, fingering the keys

plunked his money down

poled downstream

propped up on an elbow

pumped his fist in the air – BL

punted the ball

raised a stiff finger in the air and demanded – BL

sawed at the ankle chains

scratch, yawned and looked board – BL

scratched an itch

scrubbed her face till it shinned

shoulders lifted in a shrug – BL

shoulders lifted then drooped – BL

shoveled his food in

skidded to a halt – BL

slapped his face in front of God and country – BL

slashed the air in an angry gesture – BL

snapped a sharp salute – BL

snapped his fingers, expecting service – BL

snatched a sandwich off the

spread her arms wide in welcome – BL

spun on his heel and hurried off without a backward glance – BL

squeezed the juice out

stabbed at the meat – BL

steepled his fingers and rested his chin on them

stretched extravagantly and yawned

sweating hands gripped – BL

tips of his thumb and forefinger met in an okay sign – BL

toted her under his arm like a feed sack

towing her behind him like a dog on a leash

typed a letter

unexpected forceful shove

unfastened the buttons one by one

wagged a bony finger in his face – BL

wagged his finger and shook his head – BL

warded him off with arms thrust forward, palms up – BL

wide sweep of his arm, he indicated – BL

wrestled the rabble-rouser to the ground

wrung out the dish cloth and draped it

yanked her skirts aside so they wouldn’t touch him – BL

Head And Face

Note: I have included some facial expressions but only if they included action verbs.

Adams apple bobbed – BL

averted his face – BL

bent her attention to the piano


blinked owlishly – BL

brows bumped together in a scowl – BL

clenched his jaw and curled his hands into fists – BL

closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose – BL

closed-lip smile – BL

cocked his head

crinkled her eyes

cupped a hand over his mouth and rubbed at his nose with one finger – BL

did a double-take – BL

dropped his glasses to the bridge of his nose and peered over them – BL

ducked his head between his hunched shoulders and sank his hands into his pockets – BL

expelled a breath

eyes narrowed – BL

forehead puckered – BL

gaze dipped to her booty

head drooped – BL

jutted his chin and crossed his hands behind his back – BL

lips pursed for a kiss

lips pursed in irritation – BL

lips trembled as she nodded – BL


nostrils flared – BL

panting with exertion

peered down his nose as if she were a – BL

politely doffed his hat to – BL

popped her head inside the door

pupils dilated – BL

raked her with freezing contempt – BL

rolled her eyes skyward – BL

sketched a bow

slammed his eyes shut – BL

smirked and tossed her hair over her shoulder – BL

spewed water and spit – BL

squinted at the small print

stared with cow eyes – BL

stroked his chin, evaluating – BL

sucked thoughfully on the ear piece of his glasses – BL

terse nod – BL

Lower Half Body Movement: Sit, Rise, bend, Lie, Fall

abandoned/deserted/abdicated the hard chair

balanced on spiked heels

basked in the sun

boxer lay supine in the ring

bunked at his sister’s house

cambered up out of the ravine

cat-napped in the shade of an

collapsed in a stupor – BL

crashed to the ground

crossed her legs and bounced her foot – BL

cuddled on the loveseat – BL

dawdled alongside the road

dipped in a low curtsey – BL

dragging her feet, she trudged to a job she hated – BL

enthroned himself at the

exploded out of the chair, knocking it over – BL

fat man tripped and squashed his partner

flipped the chair backwards and straddled

floated on the rubber raft

front legs of his chair left the floor and

gathered himself up with as much dignity as possible

jerked and sat up ramrod straight – BL

jounced in the saddle, bruising his

jumped/bounced/leapt/lurched – BL

knelt down on one knee

leaned forward/across the table on one elbow – BL

lie prone

lifted her skirts and hopped down

loafed on her brand new sofa with his shoes on

logy steps and shoulders slumped – BL

loitered in the park

lolled about all day

looped a leg over the arm of a chair and leaned back with an indolent smile – BL

lounged on the plush carpet

lunged at his enemy – BL

moved mechanically – BL

moved woodenly – BL

nestled under the covers

ousted from his comfy seat

Move From Place To Place

planted himself squarely and confronted – BL

plunged into the pool

pried her out of his favorite chair

propped his feet up on the desk – BL

prostrated himself before the king – BL

rammed her bare foot into his blubbery gut – BL

reclined for the night in the bath tub

reposed on the daybed

rested his forearms on his knees and leaned

retired to bed

rickety rocker complained with every back and forth motion

rising from the depths of a cracked leather chair

rocked on his heels with a cocky grin – BL

rolled onto his back

roosted on the porch rail

rose to stand

sagged against the wall – BL

sank into the depths of a springless chair

sat back in his chair

sat like brooding hen – BL

slapped his gloves against his thigh – BL

slipped on the ice

slouched down on the couch – BL

slumped back into the – BL

sprawled on the bed – BL

squatted on his heels

stood smartly at attention

stooped to pick up a shiny

stumbled over his feet and fell flat

surfaced from the lake bottom and held up his prize

teetered precariously

threw herself into his arms – BL

toe tapped a staccato rhythm – BL

toed his loafers off

toppled from his perch

tossing and turning in bed

unfolded his tall frame from the chair

vaulted to his feet/bolted/

wilted onto the couch like a – BL


adjourned to the parlor

ambled away – BL

angry crowd surged into the street – BL

ascended the mountain in a surprisingly

assumed the thinker’s pose

baby crabbed-walked across the floor on all fours

barged ahead of – BL

battled his way through the melee – BL

blazed across the ball field

blundered into the room

boy scouts beetled across the creek

brawlers wallowed in the mud

breasts heaved with every frustrated breath BL

broad open smile BL

bully swaggered into the class room – BL

bushwhacked the sheriff

carted her way to the funny farm

child scooted across the floor

clambered up the boulder

closed the distance between then

coasted into the room

commuted from the suburbs

conveyed her to the first exit

crawled under the table

crowd migrated into the

cruised into the diner

dark figure barreled out of the alley

dashed into the grocery store and headed

doddered like an old man

dog-paddled across the pool

drifted into the hall to watch the

drove uphill

ducked out of sight

elated child skipped – BL

evacuated at the sound of the fire alarm

falling into step behind her

filed out of the theater

flounced over to her boyfriend – BL

flung himself into the river

gadded about town

gave chase and hurdled over people and furniture

her footsteps took her to the riverbank

herded the crowd away form

hoofed it into town

hustled her along

inched his way through

infiltrated her building with

invaded her private quarters

jogged up the street

loped across the creek

lumbered across gym floor

lunged forward in a flying leap

lurched unsteadily out of the bar – BL

minced her way up to him – BL

mother-to-be waddled into the

mounted the stairs by twos

moved with a rolling, bow-legged cowboy gait

out-paced the teenager

paced the hospital halls – BL

padded across the floor in footed jammies

pedaled the speed bike

people flocked to hear the

picked the lock and attained the room in two minutes

Pivoted on his heel and took off – BL

plodded slowly across the desert – BL

plummeted to his death

Poking along at a snails pace

Proceeded across without mishap

promenade around the

Prowled the kitchen for snack

quickstep of soldiers parading by in review

rambled along at a leisurely pace

repaired to the next room for a smoke

repelled up a mountain

retraced his steps/backtracked

retreated to second base

rounded the corner smacked into

sallied forth – BL

sashayed her cute little fanny down the – BL

scaled the slopes

scrabbled up the steep, rugged mountain

scrambled over the grassy knoll

scampered under the [my opinion only animals camper]

scuffed along in oversized shoes

seemed to fly past them

shinny up the drain pipe

shuffled slowly down the hall – BL

sidled up alongside him

skidded to a halt – BL

skirted the gathering crowd

skulked about the woods – BL

slid down the icy driveway on her fanny

slithered through the door like the snake he was – BL

slogged along as if his feet were stuck in mud – BL

slogged through the Mississippi mud

sloshed through the slush snow

slunk behind the curtains where he could – BL

spread his arms wide, hands gripping the table

staggered drunkenly – BL

stalked over to retrieve his – BL

stormed down the hall and burst into – BL

strayed into a war zone

streaked across the room in a blur

strode into the forbidden room

struck out for parts unknown

stumbled over the messy piles

swimmer knifed through the water

swooped like an eagle and

threaded his way through

thumbs hooked over his belt, he swaggered across – BL

tiptoed through the dark house

tobogganed down the hill

took a header down the steep rocky incline

trailed behind the child

traipsed across the barnyard

treadled lightly

tripped across the room – BL

troops advanced into

truckin’ down the road

trudged through the muck

undulated across the ballroom

veered toward the study

waded through the much

waiter whizzed past – BL

waltzed her across the floor

waltzed into the courtroom – BL



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