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.
· Hesitantly offering an opinion or answering questions
· Anxiety at praise or attention (blushing, stuttering out a response)
· Small displays of emotion (a small smile instead of an energetic grin)
· Feeling cornered when approached
· Shrugging, shaking the head or nodding an answer instead of speaking
· Holding/hugging something like a shield when interacting with others
· Hiding out in a bathroom or little-used area
· Sitting or standing with one’s back to something–a wall, a chair, a corner
· Using a quiet activity to avoid others (reading a book, listening to music through earbuds)
· Small movements that keep one from being noticed
· Wearing muted colors or unassuming clothes to avoid being singled out
· Making decisions that will keep one out of the limelight
· A secret desire for praise, having fantasies about being accepted and joining in…
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.
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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.
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Connie Clark says
Yes, I’m a little slow or behind, but I’ve been working, working, working! Once again, you guys have done it. I’m reading this and some of the characteristics sound like me! I don’t think of myself as being meek or shy, okay well, maybe a little. Everytime I read this I thank you guys! You will be richly rewarded in writer’s heaven!
Thanks everyone. I struggled with this one a bit, I think because the nature of these emotion isn’t as ‘overt’ as other ones. People who tend to display this range are trying to not draw attention to themselves.
Just_me, I think pain would be a good one to post, even though it isn’t an ’emotion’ per se, but rather a product of emotion or physical response. Still, you’re right, this is something all characters express and we all do it differently. We’ll add iot to our list. 🙂
Really appreciate the feedback, guys!
Mary Witzl says
I’ve tried to think of anything you might have missed, but the only thing I could think of is that little head ducking movement very humble people are apt to make (my father had it down to an art). I do grovelling humility all too well (for very good reasons) and I almost winced to see a lot of my mannerisms here.
I absolutely love your thesaurus! I check it regularly while writing and editing…
Could you possibly do pain in a future posting? Characters are injured regularly but short of making them limp or walk around bandaged it’s hard to make it obvious that they are in pain.
Wow – thank you once again, Angela! I can’t think of any others – it seems as if you’ve covered them all!