Emotion Thesaurus Entry: Shame

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.


· Mashing the hands against the cheeks
· A vacant or glazed stare
· An inability to make eye contact with others
· Pressing one’s palm over the lips to hold back a cry or words
· Shaking one’s head
· Letting out an uncontrolled moan
· Self-loathing, berating oneself, anger, disgust
· Punching one’s fists against the thighs to release frustration
· Violence to oneself (scratching, cutting, jabbing fingernails into the skin)
· Lashing out at others to transfer anger or blame
· Vandalism of one’s personal objects
· Risk taking, hoping something will happen to balance the scale
· A scruffy look (baggy clothing, unwashed hair)
· Fawning actions toward others—begging, following, even stalking—to try and regain worth…

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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[…] Brene Brown in her book Rising Strongdescribed shame as living with a rock on your chest. Shame feels like a crushing, inescapable weight on our chests, cutting off our air, knotting our guts, stealing our words, making us flushed. (Read The Emotion Thesaurus entry on Shame here.) […]


[…] Conveying Shame […]

Angela Ackerman
9 years ago

Thanks Brinkka! If you scroll down in the sidebar, there is a box where you put in your email address and you’ll get our posts straight in your email. 🙂

9 years ago

brinkka2011 says: Hi, I love your weblog. Is there some thing I can do to obtain updates like a subscription or some thing? Im sorry Im not acquainted with RSS?

12 years ago

Thanks–glad you’re finding this helpful. We have a master list of emotions that we pick from–I’ll make sure ‘annoyance’ is on it.

12 years ago

Ahhhh! I just found this and you guys make me want to cry for joy! THANK YOU! But I have a request. Will you pleeeeeaaasse do ANNOYANCE? I need something besides “rolling the eyes”!