Emotion Thesaurus Entry: Embarrassment

When it comes to emotion, sometimes we need a brainstorming nudge. After all, each character will express their feelings differently depending on their personality, emotional range, and comfort zone. We hope this short, sample list of expressions will help you better imagine how your character might show this emotion!

If you need to go deeper, we have detailed lists of body language, visceral sensations, dialogue cues, and mental responses for 130 emotions in the 2019 expanded second edition of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.


• 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, you aren’t alone. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression has helped writers all over the globe, and it can help you. To find out more about this bestselling book, please visit our bookstore.

Prefer the flexibility of instant online access and greater searchability?

The Emotion Thesaurus is also at our sister site, One Stop for Writers. Visit the Emotion Thesaurus Page to view our complete list of entries.

TIP: While you’re there, check out our hyper-intelligent Character Builder that helps you create deep, memorable characters in half the time!



Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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[…] Conveying Embarrassment […]


[…] For more ideas, check out Embarrassment […]

10 years ago

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.”

C.L. Young
11 years ago

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

12 years ago

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


Sera Phyn
12 years ago

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!

12 years ago

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

Sera Phyn
12 years ago

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!

12 years ago

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 :).

Bish Denham
12 years ago

These are great! Thanks for sharing.

12 years ago

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

12 years ago

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 years ago

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!