Some of my favorite windows into character are revealed in the smallest of gestures, those seemingly benign details that exist between action and dialog.
Here’s how Dashiell Hammett describes Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, published in 1929:
“He talked in a steady matter-of-fact voice that was devoid of emphasis or pauses, though now and then he repeated a sentence slightly rearranged, as if it were important that each detail be related exactly as it happened.” [The emphasis is mine.]
And here’s how Sam Spade describes the man in the story he’s relating:
“He went like that … like a fist when you open your hand.”
It’s an act of writing almost like sleight of hand, but with an impact in the imagination that reveals far more than the sum of the words.