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.
- Shuffling one’s feet
- Pulling or tugging at the clothes
- Cold hands
- A hesitating nod
- Swallowing more than usual
- Avoiding speaking or open agreement
- Wincing as others agree or commend someone for their solution
- Rubbing the back of the neck
- Dry-washing one’s hands
- Shaking the head
- Coughing as one agrees or supports a doubtful decision or stance
- Sharing a look with an ally, raising eyebrows to convey feelings
- Making alternative suggestions…
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.
Agree with Natalie. My characters were previously confined to raking their hair back from their faces (because I do that a lot), shrugging and biting their lips. Now they have a lot more gestures and behavior at their disposal! 🙂
Natalie Hatch says
oh I love this. Whenever I’m stuck with what my protag is doing I slip on over and go ‘Oh yeah, that’s it exactly’
Thanks for this girls.
Bish Denham says
Yet another excellect post!
Thank you Lady G & PJ. We appreciate your comments and are glad you guys continue to find this ET helpful. 🙂
PJ Hoover says
I know I say it every week, but this is such a valuable resource!
Lady Glamis says
I just have to say thank you for the Emotion Thesaurus. I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever used as a writer!!!
So THANK YOU!