Emotion Thesaurus Entry: Reluctance

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 hard, obvious swallow
· Wetting the lips and giving a jerky nod of assent
· Hands half-curling into fists, then straightening
· A grimace, a pained look
· Eyebrows squeezing together, a focused inward look of discomfort
· Hand fluttering to the lips or neck, as if to cover
· Nervous habits (running a hand through the hair, pacing, rubbing one’s hands together)
· Jumpiness
· Moving toward an exit, creating distance from another
· Changing the topic, diverting attention
. Closed body language (hands up in front, feet poised to back up or turn away)…

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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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7 Responses to Emotion Thesaurus Entry: Reluctance

  1. Pingback: Emotion Thesaurus Entry Collection (Samples) | Writers Helping Writers

  2. Angela says:

    Thanks everyone for all the great feedback on this new thesaurus. 13 K–WOW! My record is around 6K…I feel like such a slacker!

  3. Don Crane says:

    Your writing is so colorful and clear. Thanks for sharing. Hope to be back often. Thanks, Don

  4. Oh I soo need this today, have just written 13,000 words and used shaking every time my protagonist got into trouble… now i’ve got more words to play with on the edit…

  5. Becca says:

    Maybe we could do a thesaurus entry on other words for love:

    I “heart” this.
    I want to marry this.
    If Oprah visited my blog, it would become one of her ‘favorite things’.

  6. Lapillus says:

    Awesome as always!

  7. PJ Hoover says:

    I need to make a standard “I love this” response. But I’m a bit reluctant to. Could you tell from how I wet my lips and gave a jerky nod of assent?

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