Emotion Thesaurus Entry: Desperation

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.


·Pleading, begging
·Anxious muttering to oneself
·Grabbing fistfuls of hair at the sides of the head
·Crying, sobbing, wailing
·Unable to make out words properly, incomprehensible to others
·A willingness to do anything to change the outcome, even committing acts that go against one’s moral code
·Stuttering, inarticulation
·Extreme risk-taking in order to survive or protect another
·Pleading to be exchanged for another: “Take me instead!” or “I’ll go, you stay.”
·Grabbing onto another person or shaking them in an effort to make yourself heard
·Internal anguish that leads to law-breaking or betrayal in order to save oneself or another
·Increased strength, fortitude, or whatever is needed to survive or save another
·Irrational thinking, poor judgement
·Refusing to see truth or be reasoned with
·Rubbing own upper arms for comfort
·Hugging shoulders, chin tight to the chest…

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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Mike's Blog
10 years ago

“I have,” I sobbed uncontrollably, sniff, sob, “I have…” It was like a cork floating in a bottle of words. Each time I went to pour, the cork jammed in my throat.

10 years ago

Literally, as SOON as I started reading this, I wanted to go off and write a description.

Thank you so much for this. 🙂

11 years ago

Thanks Bish! And I agree PJ, let’s leave the despair to the characters!

11 years ago

Who told??

Bish Denham
11 years ago

Just reading this list made me feel desperate. Good job! I LOVE thi s Thesarus.

C.R. Evers
11 years ago

I swear you guys must have a camera in my house when you make these lists!!!!! %0P

Another great list!


PJ Hoover
11 years ago

Oh, this is a great one! Thanks!
There’s always a use for it – at least for my characters. I don’t want any despair 🙂