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.
• A pinched expression
• An exaggerated sigh
• Taking over a project due to impatience: Here, I’ll do it.
• Narrowing eyes
• Crossing the arms
• Tapping a foot
• A sharpening tone, using short phrases when speaking, clipped answers
• Rigid posture
• Nodding, but with a tightness to it, like one is holding back from saying something
• Throwing the hands up
• Rubbing the brow as if to ward off a headache
• Avoiding looking at the person, staring downward
• Pressing a fist to the mouth
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!
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
🍪Yellow_Kookies 🍪 says
Could I have more of them? Thank you 🙂
Cool Cat says
This wasn’t a very good list. Even I could think of better ones and I am terrible at writing.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Well that’s terrific – I’m glad you have such solid footing in this area that you don’t need help from a resource like this (which is, as the entry states, only a small sample of the actual entry). All the best, Cool Cat 🙂
I love how kind you were toward such a rude, disrespectful comment. Thank you <3
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
I think some people get their power from trying to take it from others. I don’t know if this person is one of those, or just having a bad day. Either way, maybe not responding in kind will make them think a bit before typing something unkind next time.
Have a great day, Mayla!
J.Lee McKenzie says
Y’all should put together a book!
Morgan Lee says
Totally awesome list! Thanks! 😀
Shari Green says
Once again, you come to my rescue… thanks! 🙂
Shari Green says
Once again, you come to my rescue…. Thanks! 🙂
Luc, even I’m not sure. It seems like every time I ‘think’ we’re reaching the end, I think of more emotions! My goal is to cover the strongest ones in the emotional spectrum. We will get to a point where emotions will overlap, and we’ll probably stop there.
Pema–ACK! Sorry you’re having trouble reaching me! If you go to my blogger profile, my email contact is listed–maybe go that route, in case I made a typo before.
Ray–bum clenchingly boring? Wow, now that’s original!
Angela, the e-mail address you gave me doesn’t work. Could you give me it again?
Just found your blogg on My Writers Circle. Looks realy good. Here’s a description that I heard at work recently. Someone came back from a meeting that she described as ‘bum clenchingly boring’. I know what she mean!
Thanks again, Angela. 😉 Your site is the only place that I’ve found these immensely helpful Writing Thesauruses.
Wow, you keep going. How much emotions do you have left?
Thank you CR!
C.R. Evers says
I’m always amazed at these lists! they are so awesome! :0)