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.
- Bouncing or tapping feet
- Pulling at one’s hair
- Second-guessing oneself
- Unwillingness to leave a certain place (telephone, house, car)
- Circles under the eyes
- A need for control
- Illogical fears
- Panic attacks
- Repeatedly rubbing at the face
- Reading into things, over-analyzing
- Stooped posture
- A strained or faked smile
- Chewing on a knuckle
- A gaze that flits around the room, never settling on a person or object for long…
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.
Kelly, his last name was Neuman (I think I speeled that correctly). I’ll have to check with “the usual group of idiots” to be sure though…
Julie Musil says
I thought you’d like to know I needed another action for “worry” and turned to your thesaurus. Found just what I needed…thanks!
Thank you so much for the emotion thesaurus. It’s helped me so much with my writing. Now my descriptions, and especially the way I describe my characters’ emotions, has improved heaps. Thanks for sharing all of this!
Thanks, Kathy, for suggesting ‘worry’ as an ET topic!
Bish, I absolutely agree!
Lapillus, this one is very helpful to me as well. I use worry a lot in my own writing.
Kelly, you brought back so many memories mentioning Mad Magazine! OMG, I loved it so much!
Nora, thank you so much! I feel so lucky to know so many great fellow bloggers. I can’t believe I didn’t get into blogging sooner!
Nora MacFarlane says
FYI – Love your site. I blogged about you today. You’ve been tagged for the Awesome Blog Award!
This is great!
When I hear the word, “worry”, I think of the Mad Magazine guy (Alfred E. Something…)saying, “Who me, worry?”
This will be a good one for me. My characters always seem to be wringing their hands when they are anxious or worried. Time to branch out!
PJ Hoover says
I never want the emotions to go away!
Bish Denham says
This is also a good list of discriptions for Nervousness and/or being On Edge.