Emotion Thesaurus Entry: Embarrassment

• coughing
• stuttering, stammering
• speechlessness
• looking down, unable to meet another’s eyes
• shoulders slumping, slouching, sagging, hunching
• a desire to run away
• glancing about as if for an exit or escape
• angry or knee-jerk reactions (lashing out, taking a cheap shot, name calling)
• gritting one’s teeth, pressing the lips tight
• keeping a death grip on backpack straps, gripping school books against the chest
• rapidly walking away, keeping the head down
• excessive swallowing
• muddied or panicked thoughts
• lightheadedness, tingling in the chest or stomach
• pretending to not have heard or seen
• using long hair to hide the face…

Win your readers’ hearts by tailoring your character’s emotional responses so they’re compelling, credible, and realistic.

If you struggle with writing emotions like so many writers do, you’ll be happy to know that this sample has been expanded into book form. The full list of physical, internal, and mental cues for this and 74 other emotions can be found in The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. For more information on this bestselling book and where it can be found, please visit our bookstore.

And the news gets better: we’ve added 15 entries to this collection, including grief, lust, and self-loathing. To access these, simply visit our online library at One Stop For Writers. There, you’ll find all 90 entries from our popular Emotion Thesaurus, which have been updated and enhanced to provide even greater value. Users also enjoy the flexibility of cross-referenced material for easy searchability across all of our completed thesaurus collections. Interested in viewing a sample? Register for free at One Stop, and see what this innovative online library can do for your storytelling.


Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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12 Responses to Emotion Thesaurus Entry: Embarrassment

  1. Pingback: Emotion Thesarus Entry: Hurt (Emotional) | WRITERS HELPING WRITERSWRITERS HELPING WRITERS

  2. Jandalf says:

    One of my favourite descriptions of embarrassment comes right out of the first page of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem.

    “Embarrassment is something I can feel in my flesh, like a handful of sun-warmed mud clapped on my head…. The embarrassment had turned runny. It was horrifying my scalp along a spreading frontier.”

  3. C.L. Young says:

    Does tugging at a necktie count as pulling at the collar on the list of how to express embarrassment?

  4. Becca says:

    Ugh. I’m so guilty of the eye-roll. Other favorites: head nodding, chairs scraping across floors, and the all-expressive sigh.


  5. Sera Phyn says:

    Yay! I look forward to seeing more of these! I’m always looking for new ways to show emotion. When writing, especially my first drafts, I tend to fall back on the same group of actions. For my novel Fallen, my mom even asked me why three of my characters had an”eye rolling disease”. LoL!

    Keep up the great work!

  6. Angela says:

    Hey, we’re all about challenges. We’ll add the idea to our emotion list of ones to be added!

  7. Sera Phyn says:

    These lists are fantastic! They’re just detailed enough to be helpful and just vague enough to force you to alter the examples. Wonderful!

    I have an emotion request, though, if you’re willing. Shock/surprise both the positive and negative sides of the emotion. Willing to take the challenge? 😉

    Keep it up Becca and Angela!

  8. Becca says:

    Hi, Donna! I also love Self Editing for Fiction Writers; I use it everytime I start revisions on a new book. It’s so useful, in fact, that I compiled a checklist of all the revision points that come at the end of each chapter. If you’d like a copy, shoot me your email address :).

  9. Bish Denham says:

    These are great! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Angela says:

    Also, I don’t know if your crit group uses Jacketflap, but we are registered over there if that makes it easier.

  11. Angela says:

    Please do! I love Self Editing for Fiction writers. I’ve read it several times, and each time find new stuff to pull into my writing. Thanks for visiting!

  12. WordWrangler says:

    VERY nice list. We are reading “Self Editing for Fiction Writers” and the first chapter was “show not tell”. These are a great resource. I’m going to share your blog with my crit group!


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